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Warning to Pacific: Unmasking pirates in Oceans

Unmasking pirates in African oceans - warning to the Pacific

Guinea: As new evidence emerges of fish being stolen from one of the poorest regions of the world, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Team Leader Nilesh Goundar has called on Pacific Island Countries to close their ports to pirate fishing boats, denying them access to overseas markets and to ensure that companies engaging in pirate fishing are prosecuted.

The comments follow moves by Greenpeace and the Environmental Justice Foundation, in cooperation with enforcement authorities from Guinea, to expose pirate-fishing vessels off the West African coast, that are laundering their cargo through European ports.

In a joint operation on board the Greenpeace ship M.Y Esperanza the environmental and human rights organisations have been operating undercover documenting nearly 70 vessels in West African waters for the past ten days.

"Pirate fishing is a similar threat in the Pacific," said Goundar. “Conservatively between 5 and 15 per cent of the Pacific's total tuna catch of 2 million tons per year is taken by pirates.
This stolen catch is worth more than the license fees earned from the legitimate industry.”

Internationally, pirate fishing is worth between US$4 billion and US$9 billion a year – 20 per cent of the total fish catch.

Mr Goundar said in the Pacific three foreign boat captains have recently been fined for illegally fishing off Clipperton Island, French Polynesia this year.
In the second incident a Fiji based company Waikava Marine Industries Limited, was fined $30,000 last week for allowing a foreign vessel to illegally fish in Fiji waters.

"No one wants the Pacific fishery to become as depleted as West Africa, which is the only region in the world where fish consumption is falling," said Gounder.

West African fishermen are losing much needed income and sometimes even their lives as they struggle to compete with the foreign trawlers illegally coming into their waters. The Guinean authorities have virtually no capacity to combat the fish pirates, who sometimes come within a couple of miles from the shore.

"Just as in Africa, the biggest problem in combating pirate fishers in the Pacific is lack of resources to monitor our ocean territories," said Goundar. "But Pacific Island Countries can close their ports to pirate fishing boats, deny them access to overseas markets and ensure that companies are prosecuted.”

Greenpeace monitored 67 foreign flagged vessels off the West African coast , from Korea, China, Italy, Liberia and Belize. 19 (28per cent) are not authorised to fish, 22 (32per cent) are known to have a history of pirate fishing, 9 (14per cent) had hidden names and 8 (12 per cent) were inside the 12 mile limit - waters reserved for local fishermen only. In the shadowy world of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated, or pirate fishing, the illegal catch is then transferred to refrigerated ships – reefers – many of which sail straight into the heart of Europe and the port of Las Palmas.

Two Guinean enforcement officials, with powers of arrest, have now joined the Esperanza, which will continue to carry out surveillance operations in the region.

The drive to make piracy history is the second leg of a 14-month global
expedition "Defending Our Oceans", which will come into Pacific waters in August. It is the most ambitious ship expedition ever undertaken by Greenpeace to expose the threats to the oceans and demand a global network of properly enforced marine reserves covering 40 per cent of the worlds oceans. Greenpeace aims to gather a million Ocean Defenders by the end of the expedition in February 2007.

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