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Pressure On Tuna Pirates To Lower Flags Of Convenience

  • October 19th, 2007
  • Posted by Susie Lipscomb

fishing-trawlker-1-resized11.jpgThe European Commission has announced new plans (17.10.07) to put a stop to illegal fishing in its own waters – and in waters around the world.

Pirate fishing of blue fin tuna in the Mediterranean is estimated to be running at such a high level that the fish could soon be extinct — and tuna stocks in the South Pacific are also being targeted, both for over-fishing, and now protection.

The EU, as a major fishing power and worldwide largest market for fisheries, says it has a major role to play in stamping out pirate fishing in the global market.

Its new regulations will target illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Joe Borg said the Commission would not tolerate practices that “to the rest of the world only bring grief through over fishing, habitats destruction and unfair competition”.

Borg has prescribed determined action, full commitment and absolute global cooperation — as the only antidote.


The EU is far from alone in expressing concern, and the Greenpeace lobby has been foremost in campaign on illegal fishing , “naming and shaming” countries it says are to blame for the abuse of natural fisheries resources, around Tanzania, Somalia, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu — which it says are fading fast.

Greenpeace suspects about eighty countries play host to IUU owners and operators, including members of the EU, Taiwan, Panama, Belize and the Honduras.

According to the organisation’s reports, thieves operating from these host countries are not showing their true colours.

Fishing boats operating out of EU ports will be found using the flags of Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama or the Netherlands Antilles — and “exporting” their pirate catch to Europe.

The Greenpeace report says more than half the tuna sold on the European market comes from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, and calls on European retailers to stop buying the “stolen” tuna from fishing companies.


The European Commission says it is completely against IUU fishing in the South East Atlantic and has welcomed recent decisions by the regulator, the Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) to tighten security.

The Commission has declared new and improved port state control systems set to include better in-port inspections for fishing boats from the SEAFO area and preparation of blacklists of IUU vessels — to make it impossible for them to sell their wares in the EU.


Greenpeace for its part has called on all retailers and processors to take note of blacklisted boats and their owners and operators, publishing a list: http://oceans.greenpeace/org/blacklist.

The organisation has also urged fishmongers to stay away from trans-shipped catches,and to only buy fish from pre-approved boats and harbours.


Key actions listed by the European Commission:

1. Require all fishing products (including processed products) entering the European Union to be certified by the Flag state as having been caught legally. Proof of the legality of the catch must be provided by the Flag state through a catch certification scheme. The regime governing access and landing in Community ports by third country fishing and transport vessels will be adapted to reflect this policy.

2. Enable the EU to adopt retaliation measures against States and vessels which repeatedly and obviously breach international rules on fisheries conservation and management measures. The procedure for identifying the States must be transparent and respect their right to make their views heard. The measures taken by the EU would take the form of commercial sanctions, ban on access to European ports for vessels flying the flag of the country concerned, prohibition for European Union nationals to maintain economic relationships with the fishing industry of the States concerned.

3. Increase financial sanctions for serious breaches of rules on fishing and trade in illegal catches. Financial sanctions must reach a level that deters fraudsters and could be matched with other sanctions such as the confiscation of catches or vessels and/or the withdrawal of licences.

4. Take stronger measures to prevent the participation of European Union nationals in IUU fishing activities.

5. Step up cooperation with international partners to improve monitoring, control and surveillance of IUU activities.

6. Take action within the RFMOs (Regional Fisheries Management Authorities – the international regulators set up for various zones across the world’s oceans), to improve the fight against illegal fishing and enhance cooperation between these organisations.

7. Increase support for the developing countries to improve control and management in their national waters.


EC, “Commission proposes to stamp out pirate fishing”, 17.10.07. (18.10.07)

EC, “Commission welcomes action against illegal fishing in South East Atlantic”, 17.10.2007., (18.10.07)

EC, “Questions and Answers on IUU Fishing”, 17.10.07. (18.10.07)

“Fishy business: Stolen Pacific tuna in the European market”, Greenpeace, 26.9.07. (18.10.07)

“Pirate fishing”, Greenpeace, 18.10.07 (18.10.07)