A while ago I wrote about how I'd been learning all about IUU fishing. That's Illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries. It's one of the biggest threats to the world's fish stocks, which is why it's better to refer to it by the less bureaucratic name of 'Pirate Fishing' or just 'Stealing Fish'.
Well now I can tell you why I was doing all this research. Greenpeace has just published a consolidated global blacklist of fishing vessels who have been sanctioned for breaking fisheries regulations.
Now we're still populating the database, but the reaction to it's launch has been strong and positive. And when you look at some of the data you can see why. Take a look at these results for blacklisted fishing vessels note the four vessels called 'Maya', the Maya 1, the Maya 11 and so on.
Then check their records
The Maya 1 used to be called the Chen Chieh 1
The Maya 2 used to be called the Chen Chieh 2
The Maya 11 used to be called the Chen Chieh 11
The Maya 22 used to be called the Chen Chieh 22
and so on
They're all currently flagged to Guatemala. They all used to be flagged to Georgia (both common flags of convenience), even though they're operated on behalf of Taiwan, and they've all been blacklisted by the IAATC.
That's how it works, you get caught, you change your name, change your flag and head back out to do it again. Maybe you pay a fine, maybe you change front company, it doesn't matter, nobody is going to know. This database might help change that.
One thing this online list will do is make clear just how much more transparency is needed in enforcing these rules. It's a scandal that an NGO has to provide this database, it wasn't technically challenging, it wasn't difficult, if the organisations that regulate fishing were serious about this they could have done it a lot sooner.
We'll be doing our best to keep it up to date, so vessels that have been blacklisted will be recognised whether or not they have a fresh coat of paint and a new call sign. We're hoping that legitimate fishermen, tired of seeing their fish stocks stolen from them will help us, we're hoping that port authorities will check on ships as they arrive in their ports, and of course, most of all, we're hoping that an official agency will take this job off our hands and put more effort and resource into it than we can.
A while ago the EU commissioner for the Environment visited the Arctic Sunrise and described us as "filling the gaps in the implementation of European law." This project is more work in the same vein, lets hope someone closes these gaps soon.