Activists lock pirates of Portugal in port

Feature story - 28 October, 2008
Greenpeace divers have chained the propellers of four vessels with a history of pirate fishing to the quayside in the port of Aveiro. Hoisting a banner demanding "Scrap These Pirates", we're now calling on the Portuguese Minister of Fisheries to ensure that they will not be able to fish again.

Pirate fishing is recognised as a global problem by several international organisations.

The vessels called Red, Caribe, Brites and Aveirense are owned by Grupo Silva Vieira, and all of them have track records involving pirate fishing including fishing without a flag or legal quota, using illegal gear, using multiple identities, and other breaches of international regulations.

The action comes just a few weeks after we launched our blacklist of illegal and unregulated fishing vessels on the web, along with the companies that own them. All four ships chained up today, as well as their owner, are included in our blacklist.

The Red - formerly known as Joana, Kabou and Lootus - is also officially blacklisted by the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and the Eureopean Union. As a Contracting Party to NEAFC, Portugal must adhere to the conditions imposed on blacklisted ships, including refusal to provide services and landing rights -- which means The Red should not  be in the berth where we found it.

Lack of political will

But it is common for pirate vessels to receive services inEuropean harbours and continue fishing illegally, despitecurrent legislation. The fact that a vessel, blacklisted by the EU, has received docking permission and services in Portugal demonstrates the lack of political will by the Portuguese authorities to tackle pirate fishing. 

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is responsible for a staggering 20 percent loss from the total global fisheries catch and scientists estimate that the revenue lost amounts to between US$10-25 billion anually. 

Stricter enforcement needed

We are calling on governments worldwide to live up to their commitments to combat illegal fishing by ensuring that vessels which continue to act illegally are scrapped. They must strengthen the implementation and enforcement of existing rules in order to protect valuable fisheries.

The only way to effectively stamp out pirate fishing is by radically improving international coordination and information-sharing to make sure there is greater transparency in the fishing industry. A key part of this will be setting up an official global online record of fishing vessels that includes a blacklist of those vessels and companies involved in illegal practices. Existing regional lists are limited and disparate in the way they work, and do not allow for a concerted global effort to fight pirate fishing.

Another essential step towards eliminating the so-called "Ports of Convenience" would be to set strong international standards for port states through the adoption of a legally-binding agreement. Countries can only block the flow of revenue that sustains unscrupulous operators by strictly monitor fishing vessels entering their ports.

Market action and marine reserves

Retailers and distributors also need to reject pirate-caught fish.  Consumers shouldn't have to guess if their fish purchases are supporting pirates. We're urgeing retailers and seafood traders to ensure that they do not purchase pirate-caught fish or trade with companies listed as operators of pirate vessels.

Governments must work together to address pirate fishing and establish a worldwide network of marine reserves to restore fish stocks. The creation of an effectively enforced network of marine reserves, protecting 40 percent of the world's oceans - with regulated, sustainable fishing in other areas is the long-term solution to overfishing and the recovery of marine life in our overexploited oceans.

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