Greenpeace urges Pacific nations transshipment crackdown
Greenpeace is urging a Pacific meeting on fish stock protection to consider a ban on vessels transferring their catch to other ships at sea - a process that encourages illegal fishing.
At the meeting which starts here today, a committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WFPFC) will recommend changes to the body’s regulatory and compliance rules, which aim to curb the scourge of illegal fishing.
“Transferring catch from one boat to another at sea - known as transshipment - is only legal in certain circumstances and the WCPFC has to be informed before and after it takes place. However, we know the practice is being used in many circumstances to hide illegal catches,” said Lagi Toribau, Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s Oceans Campaigner.
“Transshipment at sea must be banned for tuna longliner vessels, as is already the case for purse seiners. All vessels should be required to to offload their catch in the ports of Pacific countries.
“We also want the high seas closed to all fishing, as there are vessels that are 'high seas only vessels'. These don’t have a license to fish in any of the Pacific country waters, have different sets of rules that apply to them and are more prone to fish illegally away from the watchful eyes of Pacific authorities.
"There should be procedures giving countries more freedom to act on illegal vessels fishing in the high seas areas that border their Exclusive Economic Zones,” he said.
Greenpeace’s call follows its bust earlier this month of the Shuen De Ching No. 888 in the high seas off the waters of Papua New Guinea. The Taiwanese-flagged vessel had illegally-caught tuna and shark fins on board, and did not appear on the WCPFC Record of Fishing Vessels, as required. Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency later said this was a paperwork error.
The ship is being escorted back home and faces suspension of its fishing license after Taiwanese authorities inspected the Shuen De Ching No. 888 following the Greenpeace bust. The authorities found the longliner had discrepancies between their actual onboard catch and what they were reporting in their logbook, and that they were illegally finning sharks and had likely transshipped catch illegally.
“The Shuen De Ching No. 888 case highlights the gaps and loopholes in the WCPFC’s regulatory systems and shows it is failing in its own objective to eliminate pirate fishing.
“The Taiwanese authorities also found a lesser amount of shark fins on board the Shuen De Ching No. 888 than Greenpeace’s initial discovery, suggesting the vessel either ditched fins overboard or transshipped the fins being investigated by the Taiwanese,” said Toribau.
After Greenpeace’s discovery, the government of Nauru announced a complete ban on transshipment in its waters, but it is only the third Pacific nation to do so, said Toribau.
“In order to truly clamp down on this practice, we require collective, Pacific-wide regulation to stamp out this practice,” he said.