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Greenpeace Reveals Pirate Landing Of Toothfish

Greenpeace Reveals New Pirate Landing Of Toothfish

Auckland, 6th April 2000 – Greenpeace exposed a well-known illegal fishing vessel, the Belize-flagged Rita, landing its catch of 90 tonnes of toothfish in Port Louis, Mauritius late last night (NZ time). Greenpeace has called on the Mauritian authorities to take immediate action against these ocean pirates by stopping the unloading operation and seizing the catch.

Five activists from the Greenpeace ship MV Arctic Sunrise displayed a banner reading “ Stop Illegal Fishing” on the wharf where the pirate vessel was landing its catch.

“While CCAMLR countries, such as New Zealand talk of doing all they can to end illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean, known pirates, such as the Rita, are continuing the plunder of the Southern Ocean” says Sarah Duthie, Ocean Ecology Campaigner, Greenpeace New Zealand.

The Rita has been seen on many occasions in the distant French sub-Antarctic waters around Crozet Island – a known hot spot for illegal fishing - and is a typical example of pirate vessel. In 1997, this vessel was twice reported fishing illegally in the French Crozet zone showing no nationality, port or call number. It has been re-flagged from Vanuatu to Belize, both flag of convenience states (1), and has changed its name several times.

“To effectively end pirate fishing, New Zealand should call for all CCAMLR countries to agree a moratorium on toothfish, backed by an international trade ban.” Says Duthie

Many vessel owners operate as pirates, requiring their crews to deliberately flout international laws devised to protect and conserve fish stocks. A gold rush mentality has developed for toothfish catches: scientists estimate that the toothfish will become commercially extinct within two years if pirate fishing continues. Pirate vessels also hook and drown between 60,000 and 100,000 seabirds each year in their fishing gear, including petrels and endangered species of albatross. All 19 species of Southern Ocean albatrosses are seriously at risk from drowning on pirate longliners.

Note for editors:

Pirate fishing companies often use “flags of convenience” from countries suchas Belize, Panama, Honduras and Vanuatu, whose flags are for sale no questions asked. As these states fail to exercise control over their fleets, flag of convenience vessels can fish the high seas without abiding by international conservation and management measures. They will often fish illegally in remote waters and the waters of other, primarily developing, countries that do not have the ability to monitor or patrol their offshore areas. The international community is currently addressing the problem of flag of convenience fishing.

Earlier this week Greenpeace released a report, ‘Mauritius: Indian Ocean haven for pirate fishing vessels’ detailing Mauritius’ role in the transshipment of illegally caught toothfish. For copies of the report please contact Greenpeace New Zealand

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