Greenpeace yesterday stopped the Togo-flagged, factory trawler ‘Murtosa’, from illegally fishing for cod in the international section of the Barents Sea known as the “Loophole”.
Campaigners on board the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza, confirmed with the trawler’s captain that he was knowingly taking the cod with no legal quota and was conducting so-called IUU (Illegal, Unregistered, Unreported) fishing, also known as Pirate Fishing.
Activists in inflatable boats took direct action in an effort to interrupt the destructive fishing activities of the Murtosa, by boarding the trawler and hoisting the pirate flag – the skull and crossbones, also known as The Jolly Roger.
“The current level of illegal and unregulated fishing of cod alone in the Barents Sea is estimated to be 150,000 tons, about one third of the total annual legal quota. We also see evidence of illegal and unreported transfers between trawlers and freezer ships of other species such as saithe and haddock, as well as undersized fish, ” said Brad Smith, a marine biologist with Greenpeace Nordic onboard the Esperanza.
Fish caught and often transferred illegally in the Barents Sea are primarily destined for markets in the European Union. Factory trawlers and freezer ships with IUU fish from the Barents Sea regularly travel to the same ports in the U.K., Spain, Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands to land their catch.
Once landed, the fish is mixed with legal fish and then sold all over Europe. The authorities in the countries where the fish is landed do not have legal obligations to seize cargoes of pirated fish or arrest the vessels involved; this is despite information and evidence of illegal activities provided to them by the Norwegian authorities, which has responsibility for the majority of the Barents Sea.
“The problem of IUU fishing needs to be addressed at the highest international level. The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization is meeting today in Estonia and is a perfect setting for making preliminary high-level talks on how to effectively get control of pirate fishing,” says Dimitri Litvinov, Greenpeace Nordic campaigner also onboard Esperanza.
“In the Murtosa’s case, the member countries of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission receiving fish from the Barents region must act together immediately to develop measures (1) to stop this piracy of our common resources.”
The problem of Pirate fishing is now considered the greatest threat to the sustainability of global fisheries by a special task force at the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
These operations occur because the trawlers can fish and transport, or transfer fish to freezer freighters, in international waters such as the Norwegian-Russian “loophole” with impunity as no international laws govern these regions. These same vessels can then pass through the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone with equal impunity as they are flagged in “convenience states” such as Togo, Cambodia, and Georgia, states with which Norway has no common inspections agreement.
Greenpeace is calling for the international community to urgently develop legally binding, international agreements that strengthen enforcement measures to prevent IUU fishing. The most important of these is the need for a common inspection regime in ports receiving fish, giving local authorities the obligation and right of arrest and seizure in cases of documented illegalities.
Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation, which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force the solutions, which are essential to a green and peaceful future.