Greenpeace yesterday launched an online database of fishing vessels involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and the companies that own them.The global environmental organisation launched its 'IUU blacklist' as the West and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meets in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, to discuss increased regulation of tuna fishing in the Pacific where IUU fishing of the regional tuna stocks is rife(1).
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing - often referred to as "pirate fishing" - has become a global scourge. It is a multi-billion dollar business that affects many communities, especially from developing countries such as those in the Pacific that can least afford to be robbed of their livelihoods and sustenance. It leaves the marine environment bruised and battered, undermining food security and attempts at sustainable management.
The Greenpeace IUU blacklist(2) is the first one-stop independent record of fishing vessels, support vessels and companies involved in pirate fishing. Published by Greenpeace International, it includes independent observations from the legal fishing industry, government authorities, and first-hand evidence from Greenpeace and other NGOs who have recorded the activities of these vessels and companies at sea and in ports around the world.
"Each year numerous vessels are observed and recorded as engaging in pirate fishing across every ocean and sea. But the lack of global political will and scarce resources for enforcement in many coastal states means that most of the vessels and the companies behind them just carry on fishing. It isn't really possible to discourage pirates by asking them politely to please move along. There have to be clear and strict rules in place that prevent pirate fishing in the first place - and heavy sanctions for those who are caught," said Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner.
The new Greenpeace database supplements the IUU database launched in 2007, which contained only those pirate fishing vessels officially blacklisted by regional fisheries management organisations and governments.
"Official lists are currently very limited in the information they contain and do not include the names of the companies behind the pirate fishing vessels. It's time for greater transparency: for fish purchasers, retailers, and the public to see who is involved in pirate fishing and for ship owners to start taking responsibility for their role" continued Tolvanen.
Greenpeace is urging all retailers and seafood traders to ensure they do not purchase pirate-caught fish and, as a first step, to ensure that they do not trade with companies listed as operators of pirate vessels.
"In the fight against pirate fishing, Greenpeace believes the United Nations should create what could be called 'an Interpol for the oceans', so that, with just one click, fisheries enforcement authorities anywhere in the world can access an up-to-date, reliable and comprehensive global record of fishing vessels involved in pirate fishing. With little capacity or resources, fisheries authorities, particularly in developing countries, have nowhere to turn when a vessel enters their waters or ports. The Greenpeace blacklist shows that with just a bit of political commitment and a few resources, the international community can establish this kind of database. The first step in getting the market to reject pirate-caught fish is to ensure that buyers can identify the ships and companies to avoid."
Greenpeace advocates the creation of an effectively enforced network of marine reserves, protecting 40% of the world's oceans - with regulated, sustainable fishing in other areas - as the long-term solution to overfishing and the recovery of marine life in our overexploited oceans.
Sari Tolvanen, Oceans Campaigner Greenpeace International, Amsterdam: +31655125480 Lagi Toribau, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, in Pohnpei: +6919220904