Spain commits to action on stolen fish from West Africa, destined for European plates

Press release - 18 April, 2006
Spanish officials today agreed that they would declare that a 200-tonne cargo of fish stolen from West Africa is illegal, when they receive official confirmation from Guinea - following six days of Greenpeace occupation and several hours of diplomatic negotiations.

Greenpeace activists come down from the crane of the illegal cargo vessel Binar 4 after 6 days of blockade. The Binar 4, chinese owned under convenience flag of Panama, arrived in Las Palmas full of fish stolen from Guinean waters. The protest was held to prevent the unloading of its 200-tonne cargo which today the Spanish and Guinean authorities have declared illegal following the occupation and hours of diplomatic negotiations.

Greenpeace and Environmental Justice Foundation spent three weeks exposing the scandal of pirate fishing off the coast of West Africa, culminating in the Greenpeace ship M.Y Esperanza, documenting the illegal transfer of stolen fish taken from Guinea on April 6th (1) from pirate vessels to a 'reefer' vessel - the Binar 4. This ship was followed to Las Palmas where activists climbed on board before it came into port on April 11th. They have been on the mast and cranes ever since - nearly 150 hours in total.

The environmental and human rights groups presented a dossier of information to both the Guinean and Spanish governments seven days ago, proving the fish had been stolen and demanded the cargo be confiscated (2). After the Guinean authorities confirmed the organisations' findings, negotiations began between Guinea and Spain. This afternoon the Spanish fisheries ministry told Greenpeace they would declare the cargo illegal. Greenpeace and the Environmental Justice Foundation said that they are aware that yesterday, Guinean officials confirmed during discussions with the Spanish Government that the transhipment did indeed breach Guinean law.

"In every ocean, every day fish are being stolen. That means that all governments must act every day to combat it," said Sarah Duthie of Greenpeace. "We are delighted that the authorities have taken action against this illegal reefer, but this can only be the beginning, not the end. If Greenpeace and the

Environmental Justice Foundation had not acted then Spain would not have done anything to stop this cargo being sold across Europe."

During the time the Esperanza was in West Africa, 104 foreign flagged vessels, from Korea, China, Italy, Liberia and Belize were documented. Nearly half were engaged in or linked to illegal fishing activities, including operating without a license or no name; hiding their identity, trawling inside the 12 mile zone restricted to local fishermen, or transshipping outside the Guinean capital Conakry. The Binar 4 was taking fish from ships licensed to fish, but all the vessels involved had broken the laws concerning transshipments.

Guinean officials today announced that they would fine the owners and operators of the Binar 4.

"Fining the Binar 4 sends a strong signal to other pirate operators, but it is only a fraction of the humanitarian and environmental cost," said Helene Bours of the Environmental Justice Foundation. "West Africa depends on fish for food and income, but it is the only regional in the world where consumption is falling. The Environmental Justice Foundation will continue to work with fishing communities in West Africa to expose the impact of pirate fishing and force the international community to act".

According to the High Seas Task Force on Illegal, Unreported & Unregulated (IUU or pirate) fishing, up to 20% of the global catch is taken illegally - as much as US$9 billion dollars. Greenpeace and the Environmental Justice Foundation are working together to expose the pirate fishing fleets that operate without sanction across the globe. Together they are demanding that governments close ports to ban pirates, deny them access to markets and prosecute companies supporting them.

Other contacts: Sara Holden: Greenpeace International Communications: + 31 615 007 406 Sarah Duthie: Greenpeace UK, Oceans Campaigner: + 44 771 770 4595 Helene Bours: Environmental Justice Foundation Oceans Campaigner: + 32 477 430 171 Sebastian Losada: Greenpeace Spain, Oceans Campaigner: + 34 626998254 Laura Perez: Greenpeace Spain Communications: + 34 626 998 251

VVPR info:

Notes: (1) (2) According to Guinean law fish can only be caught by licensed vessels and any transshipment must be done in the Port of Conakry. According to the UN FAO Model Scheme for Port Control, pirate fishing vessels or those supporting them should be denied access to ports and services. Through its National Plan of Action to Fight Illegal Fishing, Spain committed to "prohibit the admission into or departure from port, the access to port services or the landing or transshipping of catches, whenever there are indications of engagement in activities of illegal fishing " The drive to make piracy history is the second leg of a 14-month global expedition "Defending Our Oceans", the most ambitious ship expedition ever undertaken by Greenpeace to expose the threats to the oceans and demand a global network of properly enforced marine reserves covering 40% of the worlds oceans. Greenpeace aims to gather a million Ocean Defenders by the end of the expedition in February 2007.

Exp. contact date: 2006-04-28 00:00:00