Dodgy and dodgier: pirate fishing around the world

Feature story - 21 September, 2006
Both the Esperanza and the Arctic Sunrise are working with law enforcement agencies to battle pirate fishing on different sides of the planet. The story is the same from the Pacific to Poland, along with a lack of government resources to tackle the problem. At least the pirate excuses are amusing, ranging from “our nets must have moved” to “my reporting system is faulty”. But for fish stocks, it's not so funny.

Greenpeace activists handing over the illegal gillnet to a Polish fisheries inspector and the owners of the net, onboard the fishing Vessel Kol-79.

Pirates of the Pacific

TheEsperanza has docked in Pohnpei, finally revealing that we have beenworking with the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia(FSM).   Together we have been patrolling FSM's fishinggrounds for illegal fishing, finding out first hand how difficult it isto monitor 2.7 million square kilometres of ocean.

Overthe course of 16 days, we boarded five suspicious vessels.  Fourof them were fishing with apparently "faulty" reporting systems.

Ifthese boats aren't reporting, it means there is no way of knowing howlong they stay out to sea for, nor how much (or what) they catch. We say if your reporting system is broken, you should not be allowed tofish until it's fixed.

Tuna in trouble

Onboardthe Esperanza, campaigner Lagi Toribau said, "Two key Pacific tunaspecies are already in big trouble and, unless we see a drastic cut infishing rates, they will be severely depleted within three years.Distant foreign nations take nearly all our fish, giving Pacificnations a pitiful 5 percent of the US$2 billion the fish is worthannually."

People in these far off nations includingJapan, US, EU, Korea and Taiwan, don't know that they may be eatingtuna stolen from people whose lives depend on it. "Governments must actnow to regulate their ships, we as consumers must start questioningwhere our fish comes from, and retailers must refuse to stock stolenfish," said Lagi.

Check out the "Esperanza on Patrol" from Ocean Defender TV:     

...and cod in crisis

In Sweden retailers have been doing just that after our campaign revealing the extent of illegal cod for sale in Europe.  Meanwhile, in Poland, our activists found several pirates last week.

Thecrew on the Arctic Sunrise first spotted several suspicious trawlers onWednesday 13 September.  The day after they confiscated illegalnets and took the largely undersized cod out of them. The area wassupposed to be closed to fishing until September 15. Howeverauthorities chose to give them back to the fishermen claiming they"lacked the authority to confiscate them".

One fishermanblamed the incident on the nets, saying that they had drifted into theclosed area, an obvious lie, not to mention quite a feat consideringthe nets were firmly anchored to the sea bed.

CampaignerIda Udovic explains: "They hadn't moved an inch since he placed themthere. The Polish government need to seriously improve their system forfisheries control, much more money has to be invested in capacity forinspections and law enforcement."

Sound familiar?

Making piracy history

We are demanding a global network of marine reservesto shut down the pirate trade and allow stocks to recover. Marinereserves make controls much easier than the current patchwork ofregulations that have made control impossible. Additionally all fishingvessels should have a device onboard enabling electronic surveillance,controls ashore and off shore should increase and a black list for allvessels caught cheating should be established.

We will be takingall the findings we gathered in the Pacific to the regional TunaCommission when they meet in Brisbane, Australia, later this month.

Take action: tell Unilever to stop buying Baltic cod

Birds Eye and Iglo buy a huge amount of cod, some of it caught illegally from the Baltic. Tell their parent company to clean up their act!

Ask where your fish comes from

A few simple questions before you bite into your fishsticks can help ensure you're not eating pirate bounty