Pacific Ocean -– Greenpeace has been forced to abandon its pursuit of the unregulated Cambodian reefer Heng Xing 1 in the Pacific Ocean due to a lack of legislation that would enable necessary steps to address its involvement in illegal transshipments of fish.
For several days Greenpeace International’s ship Esperanza has been tailing the Heng Xing 1 in an effort to bring this vessel and its owners to justice.
Earlier this week the Cambodian-flagged reefer was caught facilitating the violation of a host of fishing laws, including the transfer of tuna caught by two Indonesian tuna purse seine vessels (KM Starcki 10 and KM Starcki 11) and one Philippine vessel (Sal 19).
Despite repeated calls to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), Greenpeace has now been informed that the reefer is untouchable since the illegal transfer took place in international waters and Cambodia is not a member of the commission.
"We are witnessing the impotence of the WCPFC and the lack of proper enforcement on the high seas. This case is an utter embarrassment to the management of our oceans and illustrates the shocking lack of effective fisheries policies globally," said Farah Obaidullah, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner currently aboard MY Esperanza.
The vessels from which the Heng Xing 1 received fish are sailing under flags regulated by the WCPFC.
"If large-scale fish laundering in the form of transshipment by a Cambodian reefer cannot be stopped, then at the very least the WCPFC must take immediate action against its own fishing vessels providing them with fish," added Obaidullah.
The Pacific is the source of 70% of the world’s tuna, providing coastal communities not only with food but also economic prosperity. For years, Greenpeace has been working with Pacific governments to address overfishing and prevent foreign fishing nations from plundering their fishing grounds.
"Illegal activities are rampant in international waters around the world, where laws and enforcement are at their weakest. To stop this, Greenpeace is calling for the closure of the Pacific Commons and a more comprehensive and legally binding global enforcement system for our oceans," Obaidullah said.
Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans, including in four high seas areas known as the Pacific Commons (1), and for these to be declared off limits to fishing.
The environmental group is also seeking a ban on the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) in purse seine fisheries and a 50% reduction in the catch of bigeye tuna.
These measures are important to keep valuable fish stocks at sustainable levels and will be reviewed at the upcoming meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Manila from 2-7 December.
For more information
Renee Chou, Communications Officer on board the Esperanza, +47 2367 7986,
Farah Obaidullah, Oceans Campaigner on board of MY Esperanza, +47 2367
Map of the Pacific Commons: