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Illegal Fishing News Round Up – May 14, 2013

May 14, 2013

Here’s the next installment in this illegal fishing news round up.

Country-Specific News

1. Indonesia’s Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry (KKP) patrol boats arrested four Vietnamese vessels and 37 people allegedly engaged in illegal fishing in the waters of the Natuna islands in the South China Sea, it was revealed on Thursday. (Source)

It’s nice to see reported how illegal fishing is a global problem. Typically it’s Africa that gets most of the attention.


2. The President of Somalia said that the government will stand up for its people and demand that the international community formally recognize its territorial waters under international maritime law, and helps Somalia to protect them, so that highly lucrative fish and oil and gas assets can begin to generate revenues for the country and the people. (Source)

Interestingly, the President suggests forming Somali Coast Guard. It is believed that some of the pirate groups originally formed out of unofficial coast guard units to protect fishermen. This history is nicely explored by in a Democracy Now video piece in April 2009 available here. Also interesting is that contrary to my mental image of a desolate country, there is a functioning national fishing company in Somalia catching groupers, snappers, king fish, swordfish, tuna, and lobster…all apparently for export.


3. Australia: A DUBBO man described as one of the worst illegal fishing offenders in western NSW has received a seven-month jail sentence. (Source)

I like this article as it shows how good old police work can protect fisheries.  The illegal fisher was caught through a police surveillance operation.  Further, the police used the opportunity to point out to local residents “to contact the Fish Watch phoneline on 1800 043 536 or lodge a report online” if they suspect illegal fishing.


4. Sri Lanka: The Coast Guard ship stationed in Sri Lanka’s Northern region had a new task given to its crew two days earlier. Following a tip received from a local fishing boat, the crew waited for “intruders” to engage in illegal fishing. One after another, the fishermen entered the Sri Lankan waters to grab fish in abundance. Assisted by the Sri Lanka Navy, the Coast Guard craft – CG 42 – surrounded 26 people who were fishing in Sri Lankan territorial waters amid strong warnings. The Coast Guard charged the 26 suspected of fishing illegally in early April and handed them over to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. (Source)

Another great example of good old fashioned police work. It shows the importance of getting tips from fishermen, the real ‘eyes on the water’. Also a great example of what information sharing with your neighbors (India) and building capacity with experts (U.S.) can do for your coast guard.


5. European Union: Sri Lanka has been able to get the adversary announcement issued by the European Union to the local fishing industry over the allegation of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) by Sri Lankan fishermen in international waters, removed, state-run radio reported. (Source)

As suggested in #4, Sri Lanka is stepping up its game on illegal fishing. Seems it was enough to satisfy the European Commission.


Multilateral News

1. Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) members are failing to control fishing fleets and prevent illegal fishing and need to impose stricter controls to protect tuna stocks, Greenpeace International said on Friday. (Source)

No great surprise there. The key recommendation from Greenpeace is to ban all transshipments at sea. Greenpeace followed this up with a report on the poor data available on tuna fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean.


NGO News

1. An Overview of Illegal Fishing by Peter Neill of World Ocean Observatory. (Source)

Good quote on the framing of the problem in W. Africa:

In almost every discussion of illegal, unregulated fishing, enforcement has always seemed the insurmountable issue — the lack of police personnel, customs inspection, forensic and financial expertise, cross-border sharing of information, prosecutorial commitment, and surveillance and arrest capacity on the open ocean and in the off-loading ports and harbors to manage and combat illegal activity that is demonstrably out of control.

Yet Neill suggests the problem is really about just catching a small group of criminals:

This is an effort long overdue. In conversations with fishermen, government officials, and policy-makers, amplified by news reports and UN distress at the level of unregulated fishing worldwide, I have become convinced that the problem, as evidenced by the circumstances described, has at its core a very small group of individuals who through ownership of fishing companies, vessels, inter-locking directorates, foreign flag registration, political influence, and assuredly bribes and pay-offs as a cost of doing business are responsible for the majority of this illegal activity. I make no specific allegation here, but even the simplest investigative effort on the Internet begins to reveal contracts, relationships, corporate structures, and offshore registrations, frequent ownership/management changes, corporate hiring of former regulators, and other behaviors, surely all legal in the overt appearance of things, that suggest a level of manipulation and control that aggregates the power and return from international commercial fishing to an ever-decreasing circle of players. A forensic investigation of these arrangements, at the level of legal and accounting analysis available only to an international law enforcement agency such as INTERPOL, would be a tremendous step forward in understanding how the system works and thus suggesting specific targets for further discovery, surveillance, indictment, prosecution, and trial for those responsible.

This highlights the on-going debate about what is the nature of the illegal fishing problem. Is most of the damage caused by a handful of large-scale bad operators or a huge number of fishermen just cheating a little bit.


2. A new report from conservation group Oceana is blaming widespread seafood fraud on illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing practices. The report, released this week, is titled Stolen Seafood: The Impact of Pirate Fishing on Our Oceans. In announcing the report, Margot Stiles, Oceana’s campaign director and senior scientist likened the effects of IUU fishing on ocean life to the effects of the illegal ivory trade on the world’s elephant population. (Source)

See here for the report. Interestingly, Oceana shows it subscribes to the ‘bad apple’ theory of illegal fishing just like Neill in #1.  That is, that most of the damage is a result of just a small number of illegal actors. Increasingly, however, I think that the small amounts of cheating by ordinary fishermen is being neglected and may matter far more in the long-run.  Here’s a quote from the Oceana report:

The majority of seafood businesses legally catch and sell fish. However, according to Tony Makkai, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, “there is a small but significant group of habitual offenders who deliberately and regularly flout the regulations.”


3. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) told fishermen this week that so-called “pirate” fishing is not just bad for fish stocks, but bad for legitimate fishermen’s financial health. (Source)

Nice quote:

“It is disappointing and frustrating when critics of strong fisheries management claim that U.S. policies put them at a competitive disadvantage in the international seafood market,” Schorr said. “The answer is not to lower U.S. standards, but to deny market access to the pirate fishers who operate outside the law.”

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