Southeast Asian ships caught illegally transferring fish in the Pacific Ocean
GREENPEACE International has uncovered a large-scale illegal transfer of fish at sea between one ship from Cambodia, one from the Philippines, and two from Indonesia in the Pacific Commons.
None of the boats are on the official record of vessels authorized to operate in the area and they are therefore not allowed to fish or transfer fish at sea according to the rules of the Western and Central
Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
Greenpeace International collected photo and video evidence showing MV Heng Xing 1, a reefer sailing under the Cambodian flag, transshipping fish catches with two Indonesian tuna purse seine vessels (KM Starcki 10and KM Starcki 11) and one Filipino reefer (Sal 19).
The Indonesian and Philippine vessels are bound by WCPFC rules and their involvement in the transshipment is therefore illegal. (1) Cambodia is not a member of the WCPFC and the reefer is therefore considered unregulated.
In addition, an oil slick, stretching a mile long was also observed during the transshipment. Greenpeace will share this evidence with the relevant governments and the WCPFC.
“The failure to close the area in which these activities were observed allows illegal and unregulated activities to continue. The massive multinational illegal transshipment between these four vessels clearly demonstrates the urgent need to close the Pacific Commons to all fishing and ensure regional enforcement is ramped up,” said Farah Obaidullah, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner on board the MY Esperanza.
Greenpeace activists boarded the MV Heng Xing and examined the fish hold, which was full of mostly frozen skipjack tuna and some yellowfin, likely destined for canned tuna markets. Yellowfin tuna was recently assessed under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria for threatened species and are now classified as near threatened (2).
“Transshipment between vessels is illegal in this area of the Pacific under WCPFC rules because it makes fish catch data and the management of key tuna resources very difficult. Often, this is a way for fishing operations to avoid paying fees to island nations, communities that need fish and income to continue surviving,” added Obaidullah.
The Pacific is the source of 70% of the world’s tuna, providing coastal communities not only with food but also economic prosperity. For years, Greenpeace has been working with Pacific governments to address overfishing and prevent foreign fishing nations from plundering their fishing grounds.
Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans, including in four high seas areas known as the Pacific Commons (3), and these be declared off limits to fishing. The environmental group is also seeking a ban on the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) in purse seine fisheries and a 50% reduction in the catch of bigeye tuna.
These measures are important to keep valuable fish stocks at a sustainable level and will be reviewed at the upcoming meeting of the Western and WCPFC in Manila from 2-7 December. Around the world, Greenpeace is working with retailers and tuna brands across Europe, the Americas and the Pacific to increase the market share of sustainably-sourced tuna.