16TH JUNE 2005
DEVASTATING IMPACT OF
PIRATE FISHING FLEETS ROBBING PEOPLE AND OCEANS
and unregulated (IUU) fishing is one of the most serious threats
to the future of world fisheries, a new report, Pirates and
Profiteers, by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF)
reveals today. Occurring in virtually all fisheries, IUU fishing
is a global phenomenon with substantial and growing negative
social, economic, and environmental impacts.
inflicts damage on seabirds, marine mammals, sea turtles, and
marine biodiversity as a whole. An estimated 100,000 seabirds,
including tens of thousands of endangered albatrosses, are
killed each year by illegal longline vessels in the Southern
operators steal food from some of the poorest people in the
world and ruin the livelihoods of legitimate fishers. IUU
fishing is costing developing countries between US$2-15
billion per year.
IUU fishing is
estimated to account for 30% of total catches in some
important fisheries. In some ports 50% of total landings come
from IUU vessels.
sustainably manage fisheries are seriously undermined by IUU
fishing, and in extreme circumstances it can lead to the
collapse of a fishery.
IUU fishing is a
symptom of the wider crisis in world fisheries. 75% of
commercially important marine stocks are currently being
overfished, or are being fished at their biological limit.
Government measures to conserve fish stocks, in the face of
increasing consumer demand and lucrative economic gains, the
incentives for IUU continue to increase. With a single tuna fish
selling for up to US$50,000 illegal operators are cashing-in on
the profits to be made.
IUU covers a range of
activities including: fishing without a licence or out of season,
harvesting prohibited species, using banned fishing gears,
catching more fish than are allowed, and not reporting or
A key way in which
fishermen are circumventing management and conservation measures
and avoiding penalties for illegal fishing, is by registering
under a "Flag of Convenience" (FOC). Although
international law specifies that the country whose flag a vessel
flies is responsible for controlling its activities, certain
countries allow vessels to fly their flag for a few hundred
dollars, and then ignore any offences committed.
The failure of the
international community to close this legal loophole has resulted
in a proliferation of FOC vessels over the past 20 years. 54% of
Flag of Convenience countries are members of the Commonwealth, 43%
are declared tax havens by the Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development and a third of the world's merchant
fleet operate under FOC.
Convenience are just a cheap trick by which any unscrupulous
operator can avoid controls and maximize profits," said EJF
Director, Steve Trent.
IUU fishing is rampant
in the coastal waters of many developing States. The seas off the
coast of West Africa support one of the world's most productive
marine ecosystems, upon which millions of local people depend, yet
the lack of resources to properly police territorial waters is
ruthlessly exploited by IUU operators. IUU fishers are stealing
food from some of the poorest people in the world and ruining the
livelihoods of legitimate fishermen. Crucially, these same fish
can end up on the plates of consumers in the EU, USA, Japan and
other developed countries.
EJF is calling upon
the G8 and EU - and in particular the United Kingdom, as it
assumes the Presidency of both the G8 and European Union on 1st
July 2005 - to provide political leadership in support of new and
effective measures to combat IUU fishing. All of the G8 and the EU
have made numerous statements of support and entered into
commitments to eradicate IUU fishing.
"Failure by the
G8 and EU to show political leadership and act against IUU will
directly lead to a deteriorating situation, declines in commercial
catch, marine biodiversity and impoverished livelihoods in some of
the world's poorest nations," said Trent, continuing,
"We need the G8 and EU to take the lead in outlawing Flags of
Convenience and introducing truly effective controls against IUU".
"It is also clear that the economic costs of inaction far
outweigh the costs of new measures to stop IUU fishing. Action
today against IUU would lend great support to the efforts, led by
the UK, to reduce poverty, hunger and misery in Africa and across
information, contact Steve Trent or Louis Buckley on: +44 (0) 20
7359 0440. Mobile: 079749 25659 (Trent) or 078133 73282 (Buckley).
Notes to editors:
Las Palmas de Gran
Canaria (Spain) is a major "Port of Convenience",
providing services to IUU fleets, and hosting a number of
companies that operate illegal vessels. It also serves as a
gateway for illegally caught fish to the huge EU market. It is
vital that the Spanish Government and wider European
authorities introduce comprehensive and strictly enforced
controls at Las Palmas.
countries responsible for issuing Flags of Convenience are
Belize, Panama, Honduras, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
EJF are calling for the loophole in international law that
allows vessels to fly Flags of Convenience to be closed - a
step which would single-handedly eliminate a very large
proportion of IUU fishing. In particular, the governments of
the UK and other Commonwealth countries must exert pressure on
the 15 Commonwealth countries, listed in our report, that are
currently failing to control vessels flying their flag.
The extent of IUU
fishing in some West African territorial waters is phenomenal.
In 2001, an aerial survey of Guinea's territorial waters found
that 60% of the 2,313 vessels spotted were committing offences.
Incursions by trawlers into the inshore areas reserved for
artisanal fishing can result in collisions with local fishing
boats, the destruction of fishing gear, and the deaths of
countries urgently require greater direct financial and
technical support to build their capacity to effectively
combat illegal fishing.
exploit the financial and human misery that prevails in many
developing countries to run their activities at the lowest
possible cost. Crews onboard IUU vessels tend to be recruited
in low-income countries, and are forced to work in dangerous
conditions and are subject to a catalogue of abuse.
When vessels are
caught engaging in IUU activities, the penalties faced by the
crew, captain and vessel owner are often too small to act as
an effective disincentive, especially when compared with the
huge potential profits on offer. Consequently, existing
financial penalties are seen simply as a cost of doing
have been made by governments and the international community
to combat IUU fishing, including a FAO-brokered International
plan of Action (implemented in 2001). However, the problem has
continued to increase, as it is able to exploit a number of
weaknesses and loopholes.
specifically target commercially valuable high seas fisheries
such as tuna and Patagonian toothfish. However, IUU fishing
can also decimate far less lucrative stocks, but ones that
nevertheless provide very important food sources and
employment opportunities for people in developing countries.
nature of IUU fishing makes it extremely difficult to develop
accurate assessments of the scope and scale, though it is
widely believed to account for a significant proportion of
global catches. One regional fisheries management organisation
has indicated that IUU catches probably amount to three times
the permitted catch level.
One of the main
ways in which IUU fishing can remain undetected is by vessels
transshipping their catch at sea. Large vessels remain at sea
for months at a time, refueling, re-supplying and rotating
their crews. By transferring their catches onto transport
ships (reefers) IUU fishing vessels never need enter ports
with their illegally caught fish. Moreover, the illegally
caught fish are laundered by mixing with legally caught fish
onboard transport vessels.
Justice Foundation is an international NGO based in London,
UK. For further information visit www.ejfoundation.org.