Artic Sunrise crew seizes pirate's fishing nets

Feature story - 15 September, 2006
Yesterday, the Arctic Sunrise crew found illegal nets set for cod in the eastern Baltic. But the pirate fishermen are in for a surprise when they return. Our crew has confiscated the nets, but helpfully left a note on a buoy with a phone number the pirates can call to get them back.

Greenpeace confiscates illegal fishing nets. The net is registered to a Polish vessel fishing illegally in the Baltic Proper.

And we hope the pirates do call because they've got some explaining to do.  As part of a fisheries management plan, the eastern Baltic is closed to cod fishing between June 15 and September 15.  Obviously, someone thought they could get a head start.

The problem

In reality, pirate fishing is rampant in the Baltic Sea - where it is estimated that every third cod brought in is caught illegally.  And the nets we found today were mostly full of small cod. None of the fish in them was old enough to spawn.

The eastern cod stock is severely threatened and scientists have recommended a complete halt to cod fishing in this area. Yet, the EU proposed quotas of 38,000 tons for 2007.  Coupled with the rampant illegal fishing, unsustainable EU policies are paving the road to extinction for the Baltic cod.

Yeah right

Our activists also boarded two fishing boats in the area closed to cod fishing. Onboard we found hundreds of kilos of cod, and the nets where still wet. The fishermen claimed the cod was caught far away in the western area.

"Holding up fishing rods they said they only stopped in the area for recreational fishing. Even though I may not be able to prove it in court I'm convinced these guys where fishing pirates," said Ida Udovic, from on board the Arctic Sunrise.

Following the money

Onboard the same vessels Greenpeace also found several boxes from Europe's largest cod supplier, Espersen AS, Denmark. In 2001, Espersen was caught using cod fished illegally in the Baltic Sea. The company was fined 134,000 euros. In early 2006 they where caught again, this time receiving illegal cod from the Barents Sea. In the latter case, Espersen claimed to have been ignorant of the true origin of the cod, and was not charged.

How to save the cod fishery

A network of marine reserves - no take zones - would facilitate enforcement and give cod stocks a chance to recover.  To go with this, all fishing vessels in the Baltic should have a device onboard enabling electronic surveillance.

Proper controls on and off shore should be set up, and a blacklist for all vessels caught cheating should be established.

Arctic Sunrise weblog

Read updates from the crew on the Arctic Sunrise.

Make piracy history

Tell Unilever to stop buying stolen cod.