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Time For A Toothfish Moratorium

Hobart, October 23, 2000 - ASOC, a world-wide coalition of some 250 conservation NGOs in 50 countries called on the member governments of CCAMLR (the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources), whose annual meeting in Hobart, Tasmania, begins today, to institute a moratorium on commercial fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean.

"Illegal, unreported and unregulated [IUU] fishing is still at levels high enough to continue to drive toothfish stocks to commercial extinction and some seabird populations to actual extinction in the Southern Ocean," Dr Alan Hemmings, ASOC representative said. "CCAMLR's Catch Documentation Scheme [CDS] for toothfish has not succeeded in closing lucrative markets to the poachers."

Dr Hemmings noted that, while the intention of the CDS was good, and had revealed some pirate fish landings, it had failed to stop the pirates finding markets for their fish. "Toothfish poachers are finding new ports prepared to take their catches, factories in new countries are prepared to process their catches and some states are not closing their markets to illegally caught fish."

ASOC staffer Mark Stevens said that the Coalition was particularly concerned that some of the governments responsible for worst offenders in the trade in illegally caught toothfish were actually members of CCAMLR. "The time has come to name names: * "Spanish nationals, using fishing vessels and companies registered in other countries, are responsible for the bulk of the IUU fishing in the Southern Ocean; * "Uruguay, while responding positively to specific complaints from other countries, allows Montevideo Port to be used by illegal fishers to land toothfish for export to other countries; * "Chile, which has done much to control its fishing vessels, has not yet managed to stop factories processing illegally caught toothfish within its territory and still allows its companies to export products derived from illegally caught fish; * "Japan still allows fish and fish products derived from IUU fishing operations to be imported into Japan and traded in its markets. * "Canada has been refusing to implement the CDS thus allowing toothfish products imported from Chile to be illegally re-exported to the USA, much to the embarrassment and frustration of US authorities." * * Dr Hemmings also named some states that are not members of CCAMLR but are active in the illegal toothfish trade: * "Port Louis, in Mauritius, remains the number one port for toothfish poachers active in the Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean and continues to resist diplomatic pressure to close its ports to the poachers' fishing vessels; * "Pirates are turning to China as a major destination for illegally caught toothfish for processing and re-export to Japan and other countries; * "Belize and Panama continue to fail to prevent fishing vessels flying their flags from poaching toothfish, although Panama, at least, is showing some signs of wanting to address the problem."

Dr Hemmings concluded by noting that only governments have the resources necessary to confront and stop illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing from destroying fish stocks and bird populations and that more must be done - and urgently. "The time has come to institute a moratorium on fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean and to close the markets of the world to toothfish for as long as it takes for governments to fix the IUU fishing problem. If governments will not do this, they leave their citizens little option but to do so themselves by refusing to buy toothfish products," Dr Hemmings concluded.

For further information, contact: Dr Alan Hemmings or Mark Stevens C/- Wrest Point Hotel, Hobart, Tasmania; ph: (03)6225.3989; or +61-3-6225.3989

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Barry Weeber Senior Researcher Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society PO Box 631 Wellington New Zealand Phone 64-4-385-7374 Fax 64-4-385-7373 www.forest-bird.org.nz

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