Greenpeace exposes large-scale illegal cod laundering in the Netherlands

Press release - 7 February, 2007
Thousands of tons of illegally caught cod from the Barents Sea WAS landed in Dutch harbours in 2006, according to a new report released by Greenpeace Netherlands today (1). A lack of effective national legislation and poor international co-operation allows transport vessels carrying illegal or unreported cod from the Barents Sea to easily land their catch in Dutch harbours.

Over fishing and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing are seriously undermining efforts to protect the world's last remaining cod stocks. Cod populations have been depleted off the East Coast of Canada, are on the brink of collapse in the North and Baltic Seas and are now being seriously over fished in the Barents Sea.

Despite calls by scientists to significantly reduce and in some cases stop the fishing for cod altogether, governments allow the plundering of the world's oceans to continue, ignoring scientific evidence and turning a blind eye to illegal and destructive fishing practices. According to estimates from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), 25% of all cod caught in the Barents Sea in 2005 was illegal. Much of this fish is landed in EU ports including the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom. It is then sold on the EU market, either directly or via processing in China.

"This organised fish crime can continue to thrive because EU governments are failing to take urgent action", says Farah Obaidullah, Greenpeace Netherlands Oceans Campaigner. "The Dutch and to a large extent also the Spanish effectively facilitate the large-scale laundering of stolen fish [for as long as they allow the pirate fishing industry to offload their catch in harbours such as Eemshaven, Marin and Las Palmas".

The Crime File published by Greenpeace Netherlands reveals how vessels with a history in illegal fishing can offload their catch in the Dutch harbour of Eemshaven, despite strong indications of carrying illegal cargo.

Greenpeace investigated cod landings in the Dutch port of Eemshaven during the first half of 2006. 16 of the 22 vessels that landed cod in Eemshaven have been involved in IUU fishing, yet none were subject to a thorough investigation.

Dutch inspection authorities only measure the amount of fish landed. No verification is done with the Flag State of the catch vessels involved on the legality of the fish, e.g. if the catch had been reported and subtracted from any legal quota or not.

Greenpeace has continued to monitor Barents Sea cod landings into European ports, this week fish from a suspect reefer was offloaded in Eemshaven, without a proper inspection verifying the legality of the catch. The vessel is scheduled to head for Spain with its remaining cargo.

"In a world where bureaucrats fail to take responsibility and continue shifting the burden of proof on to other governmental institutions, pirate fishing flourishes, leaving the planet's last remaining fish populations with little chance of survival. The situation is clearly out of control," said Obaidullah. "Several international agreements to combat pirate fishing exist but governments are not enforcing them. We simply cannot continue to wait for the last cod to be stolen until governments finally wake up to wonder where did all the fish go."

Greenpeace is calling on the Dutch and other EU governments to take global leadership in the fight against illegal fishing and to start cleaning up their own ports as well as provide funds for developing countries to better police their waters, where many EU fleets are now fishing following the depletion of European fisheries.

Other contacts: Farah Obaidullah, Oceans Campaigner Greenpeace Netherlands: +31 615011161 Truls Gulowsen, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace Norway: +47 90107904 Mike Townsley, Press Officer, Greenpeace International: +31 621 296 918

Notes: (1) Vispiratenparadijs Nederland Greenpeace Netherlands

Exp. contact date: 2007-02-13 00:00:00