March 22, 2016

PACIFIC OCEAN: Illegal Fishing Worth $600m in the Pacific Amounts to 'Daylight Robbery'

The Guardian, UK
written by Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin
Tuesday March 15, 2016

Illegal fishing in the Pacific Ocean is costing more than $600m a year and is mainly being carried out by legally licensed fishing vessels, a report has found.

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency released the 100-page report, which is the first in-depth attempt to investigate, quantify and place a monetary value on the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices (IUU) in the region.

The report found the main perpetrators of IUU fishing were licensed vessels hauling in fish stock that went unreported and unregulated.

“IUU fishing by the licensed fleet accounts for over 95% of the total volume and value of IUU activity estimated here,” it said.

Greenpeace campaigner Oliver Knowles, responding to the report, said governments need to invest more in “policing and monitoring fishing to put pressure on the illegal operators.”

“This is daylight robbery, clear and simple,” he said in a statement.

“A resource that belongs to the Pacific community is being stripped out by illegal operators, many of them from countries far away from the Pacific.”

“On top of the illegal catches, there is also the huge problem of destructive, wasteful and unsustainable fishing that is legal. The two combined are putting huge pressure on Pacific tuna stocks.”

According to Greenpeace New Zealand, over 70% of the world’s tuna hails from the Pacific Islands, but only 20% of that catchment is caught by Pacific Island fleets.

Tuna stocks have plummeted dramatically since the 1970s, with many experts saying some tuna species – such as bluefin - are at risk of extinction if current overfishing practices continue unabated.

Scott Gallacher, deputy director general at New Zealand’s ministry for primary industries said New Zealand welcomed the report as a “rigorous” examination of IUU fishing practices in the Pacific.

Gallacher added New Zealand had a number of fishing vessels in the region but was “completely confident” none of its fishing companies were involved in illegal practices.

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