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Antarctic Toothfish Pirate fishing: The rule book is slim

Media Release – Wednesday 14 January 2015 – Wellington

Antarctic Toothfish Pirate fishing: The rule book is slim. Spain needs to take action

The national environmental alliance ECO NZ has congratulated the New Zealand Navy and government for monitoring unauthorized and unreported fishing in Southern Ocean.

Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO), Antarctic and policy specialist, Cath Wallace, today welcomed the Navy action and its application to board the three pirate vessels. “It is disappointing that the boarding of the Yongding and the Songhua did not occur due to conditions and the pirate skippers’ actions.”

Antarctic specialists from ECO say that the legal “book” that Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully wants to throw at the illegal fishing is pretty slim and ineffective. Cath Wallace says, “the ability to take further enforcement action is limited under international law”.

“The people who ultimately stand to gain from fishing in Antarctic waters are well known for evading regulations and know every trick in the book. These beneficial owners appear to be the Vidal Armadores SA Galician fishing interests in Spain. With a variety of other fishing interests, they are well practiced at conducting their business in the shadows without authorization or reporting, or with a mix of legal and unauthorised vessels.

This time the vessels appear to be operating under Equatorial Guinea as a flag of convenience. Flags of convenience are where vessels with no real links to the countries register with a country with ineffective controls.”

“They exploit poor countries and/or those with corrupt officials to register vessels under flags of convenience. It is a world-wide problem.”

“International controls are weak and rely on countries taking action against their flagged vessels. The rules of the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) have some strength: but only over the countries that actually belong to CCAMLR, which Equatorial Guinea does not. Spain is member, but technically the vessels do not belong to Spain.”

The next task is to find out the nationality of the skipper, fishing master, and crew. Countries may have rules under their own laws, or have obligations if they belong to CCAMLR, to control the actions of their nationals outside their own national waters.

“Another option for the international community would be to block the unloading of the catch using what are known as “port state” controls. That means that countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Uruguay, China, New Zealand, and the USA, could refuse to allow the catch to be unloaded or shipped through their countries unless it has valid “catch documentation”.

“It is likely that catches that are caught in the Southern Ocean that are covered by CCAMLR’s rules are either trans-shipped and reported to have been caught by vessels that have authorization from CCAMLR, or they are given fake documentation. The Galacian fishing interests behind this have been notorious for organized fishing crime for decades, but have evaded enforcement measures.”

“Spain, port states where the catch is off-loaded and the authorities in the crews’ countries can take action. We call on them all to do so. The European Commission may be able to act if European states are involved. As long as flags of convenience are available and remain outside CCAMLR, CCAMLR itself can do little to control the actions of the vessels.

Korea, a CCAMLR member, has recently taken action against its vessels for illegal fishing and has banned Insung vessels from fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean. Russia is also investigating its vessels for anomalous fishing activity in the Weddell Sea.
good for countries that allow their registration to be flags of convenience. Other measures and diplomatic pressure will be needed instead.

It is great, that the NZ Navy and New Zealand government are on the case. Congratulations to those who have worked hard to expose this situation.

The “rule book” Murray McCully refers to is useful for CCAMLR member states but no use when the flag state is not a member of CCAMLR.

© Scoop Media

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