Greenpeace leaves a mark and casts a net of legal doubts on Icelandic ship

Press release - 6 August, 2005
Greenpeace called on Iceland and other members of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) to get their deep-sea fisheries mismanagement under control by branding the side of the Petur Jonsson, a 64-meter Icelandic bottom trawler with the word "Legal?" in international waters of the Northwest Atlantic.

Greenpeace activists display a banner reading "LEGAL" at the bow of the 64 meter Icelandic shrimp trawler the Petur Jonsson, in international waters of the NW Atlantic. The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) is responsible for managing the deep sea fisheries in this area. Iceland a member of NAFO has opted out of the management scheme for shrimp in this area setting its own quota. 4 of the 6 straddling stocks under NAFOs care are under moratoria.

"We want a UN moratorium on high-seas bottom trawling now," said Bunny McDiarmid of Greenpeace International. "We need to force decision makers to sort out the mismanagement of deep-sea fisheries and to give scientists the necessary time to identify which vulnerable areas need protection from this destructive fishing practice" she said. NAFO's "management" of shrimp in international waters of the Flemish Cap (1) is not done by setting a catch limit, but rather by allocating a number of days and vessels to member countries fishing in the area. Iceland has used the objection procedure (2) in the NAFO to opt out of this effort allocation scheme and set its own quota. "Why is it legal for member countries to opt out of management decisions made collectively by NAFO? Why is it legal for members of NAFO to then set their own quotas and ignore scientific advice? And why is it legal to bottom trawl in areas where soft corals and other vulnerable deep-sea life also exists and could be lost forever with one trawl?" asked McDiarmid. The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is in the international waters of the Northwest Atlantic to highlight and document the activities of the bottom trawling fleets. Greenpeace has visited four shrimpers and observed seven bottom trawling ships in the same area of the Flemish Cap last week (3). Skippers on board shrimp trawlers in the Flemish Cap have told Greenpeace that over the years the shrimp are getting smaller and the boats are getting bigger. The use of larger boats is to get around the restriction on boat numbers and days. Bigger boats mean that they can trawl and haul more than one net at a time. In 2003 the catch increased to 62,000 MT, from 49,000 the year before; this was largely due to Norway, doubling their catch by setting three nets at a time (4). The Petur Jonsson is the only Icelandic shrimp trawler currently in the area, although a number of other Lithuanian and Estonian flagged shrimpers appear to be either operated or owned by Icelandic interests (5). "With around 30 tons of gear dropping onto the seabed three times a day and approximately 12 square kilometers of the seabed being trawled every 24 hours by each trawler, it's not hard to see why this is considered to be one of the most destructive fishing practices around," concluded McDiarmid.

Other contacts: On board the ship: Bunny McDiarmid +871 324.469.014Racine Tucker-Hamilton +1 202.436.1039

VVPR info: Greenpeace International Picture Desk, John Novis (m) +31 653 819 121Greenpeace International Video Desk, Michael Nagasaka (m) +31 646 166 309

Notes: (1) The Esperanza is in division 3M of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO)(2) The objection procedure in NAFO means a member country can simply state they disagree with a decision within 60 days, and they are then not bound by it.(3) Estonian: Lomur 2, Ontika, Sunna; Andvari; Lithuanian: Borgin; Faroese: Solborg; Icelandic: Petur Jonsson.(4) NAFO Scientific Council Meeting - September 2004: Assessment of the International Fishery for Shrimp (Pandalus Borealis) in Division 3M (Flemish Cap), 1993-2004.(5) The shrimp fishery on the Flemish Cap began in 1993 following the collapse of the cod fishery. Today Estonia, Denmark (Faroe Islands), Norway and Iceland take the largest catch and their markets are predominantly Europe, Japan and the USA. In 2001 the shrimp catch from the Flemish Cap was the largest reported bottom trawl fishery in international waters.Citizens can participate in an online alert urging decision makers to support a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling at details of the tour and to follow the Esperanza's diary visit: