Pacific nations skirt transshipment ban calls
Palau, 30 September 2015 - Pacific nations meeting on fish stock protection failed to make headway on the scourge of pirate fishing after discussions foundered over a ban on vessels transferring their catch to other ships at sea, Greenpeace said today.
The meeting of a committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WFPFC), which ended yesterday, set aside a proposal from the Cook Islands for a ban on transferring catch - a process known as transshipment.
“Transhipping is acknowledged as a major problem for Pacific nations trying to sustainably manage their fish stocks and keep local fishing industries alive,” said Lagi Toribau, Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s Oceans Campaigner.
“Instead of addressing the urgent need to stop this practice, this WFPFC meeting set aside a Cook Islands proposal for a transshipment ban in the Eastern High Seas Pocket to be dealt with at another time.
“This area of high seas enclosed by the Cook Islands, Kiribati and French Polynesia is a hotspot for unsustainable and illegal fishing, but transshipment on the high seas affects all Pacific economies.
“Pacific nations such as Nauru have already announced bans on transshipment in their waters, and it’s time for the WFPFC to adopt a more regional approach to this issue.
“Just before this meeting, Greenpeace busted a Taiwanese-flagged pirate fishing vessel off the waters of Papua New Guinea with tuna and shark fins. What this ship was doing is only a fraction of the illegal fishing activity that is going on.
“The full WFPFC will hold its annual meeting at the end of November, and we urge its nation members to stop dragging their feet on greater regional cooperation to end this highly damaging practice,” said Mr. Toribau.
Transhipping at sea is one of the main ways pirate fishers are able to avoid detection and launder their catch.
Fishing vessels can remain at sea for months at a time resupplying, refueling and even changing their crew. Transferring their catch at sea allows pirate fishers to launder their illegal fish by mixing it with legally caught fish.