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Illegal Fishing News Round Up – June 18, 2013

June 18, 2013


1. Did illegal fishing trigger takeover move?  “The Belize newspaper Amandala reported on the assumption of control over the International Business Companies (IBC) Registry and the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize (IMMARBE), saying: “ … operations which were estimated to net the Government $11 million in revenues in this year’s budget.”  In an article published on Tuesday, the newspaper continued: “A statement issued by the Government of Belize today said that the Management Services Agreement under which the registries were privatised comes to an end at the close of business today.” (Source)

I find this the most interesting bit of news in my entire summary. The management of Belize’s vessel registry was privatized 23 years ago and just like that it is moved back to government management. The article continues to suggest that this is a result of the pressure being applied on Belize by the EU, which named Belize as a possible non-cooperating third country in November and which recently threatened to apply trade sanctions if Belize did not address the illegal fishing being conducted by its flagged vessels. You can learn more about that below.


1. A Panamanian technical team travelled to Belgium to submit a document that confirms the commitment of the national government on the issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. “The text was addressed to the head of the Directorate General for Maritime and Fisheries Affairs (DG MARE), of the European Commission (EC), Lowri Evans… in November 2012, the EC threatened to take action against eight countries and include them on a blacklist due to their lack of cooperation in the fight against IUU fishing. The warning was directed to Panama, Belize, Cambodia, Fiji, Guinea, Sri Lanka, Togo and Vanuatu.” (Source)

Panama is clearly nervous that the EU will apply sanctions to Panamanian seafood exports, many of which are likely caught legally. The question is if Panama is taking significant steps to address the illegal fishing of some of its vessels.

2. Maria Damanaki, announced the follow-up to the Commission’s ‘yellow card’ letters of November 2012 to 8 third countries for non-cooperation in the fight against illegal fishing. The countries had 6 months to respond but this deadline has now expired and some of them may soon face trade sanctions, the Commissioner warned. (Source)

I think this is really great news.  This means that the EU IUU policy may well get some teeth, quite unlike the U.S. IUU policy which has never imposed any trade sanctions. The list comprises 8 countries:  Belize, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Republic of Fiji, the Republic of Guinea, the Republic of Panama, the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, the Togolese Republic and the Republic of Vanuatu. Here are some good quotes:

For all of the 8 pre-listed countries, we are now in the process of determining the next step. The ones making credible progress will receive additional time to implement the necessary reforms and adapt their fleets. A mission is on-going in one country, Vanuatu, as we speak. The others have not been that cooperative until now. Their current attitude leaves me no choice but to start preparations for the next steps, which could entail trade measures to be adopted by the Council on proposal of the Commission.

In particular, Fiji, Togo, Sri Lanka and Panama have made credible progress. We continue cooperating with these countries, but not loosely. We do this within a clear dedicated framework.

3. EU blacklist must be expanded after EP all clear.  “The European Parliament today approved a new rapid procedure for listing countries not cooperating in the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU). This clears the way for the Commission to add additional countries to the current list (1) and to publish the list of vessels involved.” (Source)

Great thoughts and comments from the Green Fisheries spokesperson, Raül Romeva:

The EU’s illegal fishing black-list is a crucial tool for clamping down on illegal fishing and MEPs have to day given the go-ahead to a rapid procedure for adding countries to this list.  The Commission must expand the current list to include other countries for which there is clear evidence of illegal fishing, notably South Korea. With repeated cases of illegal fishing and related human rights abuses, notably in West African waters, the European Commission must add South Korea to the blacklist.

For you Spanish speakers out, there is also a great video at the above link of Romeva talking before the European Parliament. In the video he also mentions Russia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and China as deserving to the on the EU IUU list.

4. Iceland has resumed its disputed commercial fin whale hunt, with two vessels en route to catch this season’s quota of at least 154 whales, Icelandic media has reported… “this year’s quota had been set at 154 fin whales, with the possible addition of some 20 per cent from last year that were never hunted. Iceland also hunts minke whales, a smaller species. That hunt began in May, and so far seven minke whales have been harpooned, whaling officials said.  The International Whaling Commission imposed a global moratorium on whaling in 1986 amid alarm at the declining stock of the marine mammals. Iceland, which resumed commercial whaling in 2006, and Norway are the only two countries still openly practising commercial whaling in defiance of the moratorium. Japan also hunts whales but insists this is only for scientific purposes even if most of the meat ends up on the market for consumption. In 2011, the United States threatened Iceland with economic sanctions over its commercial whaling, accusing the country of undermining international efforts to preserve the ocean giants. But President Barack Obama stopped short of sanctions, instead urging Reykjavik to halt the practice.”

Iceland’s whaling is an interesting case. Three countries—Japan, Norway, and Iceland—contentiously kill almost 2,000 whales annually. Japan exploits a loophole for ‘scientific’ whaling. So not technically illegal unless you amend the IWC.  Norway, meanwhile, lodged a formal objection to the moratorium at the time it was put in place, a practice allowed by the IWC and which means Norway does not have to abide by the moratorium.  Meanwhile, Iceland initially agreed to the moratorium and then it withdrew from the IWC in 1992, only to re-join in 2002 with a formal reservation.

Was such a reservation legal or not? This depends on your view of international law.  The re-adherence of Iceland is discussed here.  As you can see, it was a contentious issue and took a couple years to work out. It ultimately came down to a vote of 37 countries (19 supporting Iceland and its reservation, 18 against).  But the procedure was fraught with disagreement and various decisions about what the Commission could and could not do. For example, could the Commission allow Iceland to vote on its re-adherence with a reservation? (It decided contentiously that it could and Iceland’s vote was the lucky 19th that sealed the deal).

In my view, it was contentious, but I believe that the decisions made by the IWC were legal since no review process followed to challenge the various votes on procedure. While many countries subsequently filed their objections, and three countries – Italy, Mexico, New Zealand – stated that they do not believe the IWC convention is binding between them and Iceland, there was no subsequent legal review.

And what about possibility that the IWC’s decisions were illegal as they conflicted with the law of the sea’s provisions for conservation?  Well, it doesn’t look so good for people who want the whaling to stop.  Minke whales are considered a species of ‘least concern’. Meanwhile, fin whales are listed as ‘endangered’, but a catch of 154 whales amounts to about 0.1% of the total global population.


1. US proposes stricter at-sea scale rules. “NOAA’s proposed stricter scales at-sea rules came about in response to American Seafoods’ violations but also because of technology advancements, according to a NOAA official. NOAA fined American Seafoods $2.728 million after the company allegedly under-reported catches of pollock on several occasions from 2007 through 2011… So far, NOAA has only issued a white paper proposing stricter rules. Kinsolving presented the white paper to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council at its meeting this week… However, the regulatory process realistically takes longer than people might like, according to Kinsolving. NOAA has to conduct an analysis on the cost of implementing the rules…“The biggest change, for some of the boats, is the need for additional video monitoring. The longliners already have video cameras up, so it will be about re-positioning some of those cameras,” Kinsolving said. Another cost for the pollock fishery will be software upgrades. “This involves software changes that will allow us to track…calibrations better. We can better determine if a scale is running at a faulty state and may not be accurate. The cost is something we will have to figure out when we work closer with the manufacturers,” Kinsolving said. After the financial analysis is presented to the council and approved by NOAA, the agency will publish it in the Federal Register. That will be followed by a public comment period and a 45-day cooling-off period before new regulations are implemented. New regulations likely won’t be in place until mid to late 2014, according to Kinsolving.” (Source)

I look forward to reading the financial analysis.  It seems like this is a very commonsense measure.


1. Bluefin tuna quota exhausted early. “The bluefin tuna purse seine season lasting from 26 May to 24 June came to an early end this year for European purse-seiners. Member States involved in this fishing activity (Spain, France, Italy, Malta and Greece) have exhausted their quotas and have therefore closed their fisheries activities: purse seiners are back to the ports. During its last annual meeting in November 2012 the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) adopted a reinforced multi-annual recovery plan for bluefin tuna which enhances the sustainable management of the stock and introduces a number of new strict control measures: TAC have slightly been increased and as of 2013, control and traceability of bluefin tuna for both fishing and farming activities have been further reinforced. Therefore, this year the quota monitoring is based on what fishing vessels declare as well as on what goes in and out bluefin tuna farms.”  (Source

I’m quite please to read that fish ranching operations are now being inspected to ensure that illegal catches aren’t being laundered through them.  Thankfully we don’t have this problem of ranching in other RFMOs, but then again, no other RFMO even comes close to having a catch documentation scheme such as ICCAT.


1. The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) on Tuesday launched its report “Sold to the Sea” in Madrid. “JF said Spain was chosen as a platform to represent the report because as a fishing nation it has a unique understanding of the sector and the dangers faced by workers. Jose Manuel Trujillo, president of the Fisheries Section of the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF), said the International Labour Organization (ILO) Working in Fishing Convention (Convention No. 188) was important in stopping human trafficking and “slavery” on fishing vessels. He called on Spain to show leadership by ratifying the Work in Fishing Convention as soon as possible.” (Source)

The report is top-notch and I expect to post some excerpts soon.

2. Local officials are causing China to grossly over-report its aquaculture output, according to a respected local academic investigating the country’s agricultural statistics. “Dr. Yu Xiaohua believes that China likely accounts for as little as half the 60 million tons of aquatic product claimed in official statistics published by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (and quoted in reports by international bodies such as the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization). In Beijing on research work, Yu told Seafoodsource that China’s system of political promotions is largely to blame.” (Source)

Though this is aquaculture, you can clearly see the systemic traceability problems and how this leaves many holes for illegal fish products to enter into China’s exports.


1. Illegal fisherman caught by Inland Fisheries Ireland. “FOUR men have been fined up to a thousand euros for illegal fishing.  At a sitting of Fermoy Court this month two Tipperary men were prosecuted by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) following investigations of illegal fishing activity on the river Aherlow at Anglesboro on January 2.  The judge convicted both men and fined them €350 and €300 respectively. The two men were also ordered to pay costs amounting to €418.90 each.  IFI also successfully prosecuted two Lithuanian brothers at Killaloe Court where fines of €500 each were imposed for taking more than the legal amount of coarse fish on Lough Derg. Last year IFI fisheries officers carried out a surveillance operation on the basis of reports received from the public and local anglers on Lough Derg. The brothers, who were fishing mainly for perch from a boat, were doing so in manner that did not appear to be for recreational purposes.” (Source)

I really like that the surveillance operation was a result of reports from the public and local anglers.  Again we see that fishermen can make terrific ‘eyes on the water’ to fight illegal fishing.  A key question here.  Do you get better “eyes on the water” type participation from recreational fishermen or commercial?  My guess is that recreational fishermen may sometimes be preferable and this raises a question as to whether or not recreational fisheries are encouraged to overlap with industrial fisheries.

2. Two Hialeah Men Found With 468 Illegally Harvested Lobster Tails. “Two Hialeah men were arrested after they were found with 468 illegally harvested lobster tails, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said. “They grossly exceeded the daily bag limit of six lobsters per person per day, which is in effect during the regular lobster season: Aug. 6 through March 31. Also, lobster must remain in whole condition. Separating the tail from the body before bringing the lobster ashore is prohibited,” the FWC said in an email statement.  A total of 283 lobsters were undersized and one was an egg-bearing female, which is always illegal to harvest in the state, authorities said. They also had an undersized stone crab claw and a queen conch. Wildlife officials said it’s not stone crab season and queen conch are illegal to possess in Florida waters.” (Source)

This brings us back to the questions of who/what does more damage to the environment. Is it worse to have illegal small-scale fishing in coastal areas such as this or large-scale illegal fishing in the open ocean?   And how do we compare the magnitudes of violations?  In pounds or number of specimens?  Or in percentage overages of individual quotas?  In this case, these men were roughly 4000% over the daily catch limit during the legal season.

3. Officers face fish-dumping charges.  “Officers aboard one of two Korean-owned deep-sea trawlers berthed in Dunedin are facing allegations of illegally dumping fish at sea, brought by the fisheries division of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)The allegations stem from when the ships were on charter to a subsidiary company of Christchurch-based United Fisheries, UFL Charters Ltd, while fishing off the South Island for hoki and other species. This is the second time the sister ships, the 80m Melilla 201 and 68m Melilla 203, have been involved in allegations of illegal fishing, albeit with different owners. In late-2011 and 2012, both ships were embroiled in claims by their Indonesian crews over unpaid wages, and were held in Lyttelton’s port under a High Court order.” (Source)

This brings us to the ‘bad apple’ theory of illegal fishing.  Are there simply bad fishing companies or or countries there?  This is an interesting example of two Korean-owned vessels being sold to other Korean owners and then getting busted again for serious wrong doing.

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