Monday, October 20, 2014

Illegal Fishing: A Shark Challenge

Guest Blog
by Lindsay Jennings

Forget the idea of an eye-patch wearing, sword-wielding, swashbuckling pirate. Pirates these days traverse the oceans not for gold, but for fish. And some of the most lucrative of those fish are sharks, with prices reaching upwards of $1,000/kg for fins. Shark products (fins, meat, oil, teeth, liver, and skin) are still in demand in many countries, although recent media reports claim demand may be on the decline. But a simple lesson in economics will tell anyone that this system of supply and demand is unbalanced, with too many boats catching too few fish.

Seafood, ahead of rubber and coffee, is the most heavily traded global commodity, with no signs of slowing down despite increasing concerns over global food security. These pirates, or illegal fishermen, are often from areas of political instability and limited opportunity; they turn to a trade which pays – illegal shark fishing.

Fresh shark fins drying on a sidewalk in Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Nicholas Wang/Flickr
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing leads to the indiscriminate catching of millions of sharks each year, trying to fulfill global demand for shark products while driving down populations. Shark fishing is legal in many parts of the world, but there are unique places, such as shark sanctuaries and marine protected areas, where fishing for sharks is illegal. Short of a full sanctuary, countries may also implement fishing regulations such as finning bans, area or seasonal closures, gear restrictions, and species-specific prohibitions. Shark fishing in designated protected waters is clearly illegal, but there are also two other components of IUU fishing, the unregulated and unreported fishing, that contribute to shark mortality.  These will be addressed in a later blog.

Fortunately, recent technology is allowing us to see just who is fishing and where they’re fishing. Earlier this year, 65 dead shark carcasses were found floating in a mile-long illegal gill net off Texas, thought to be left by Mexican poachers. These kinds of nets, dubbed ‘walls of death,’ are illegal in the U.S. as they are highly effective in catching marine life, from sharks to sea turtles, and are often found drifting in the water far after fishers abandon them. In 2012, Texas authorities recovered a single, three mile gill net holding 3,000 juvenile sharks, an entire generation’s worth of animals. In Peru demand for shark fins drives the illegal dolphin slaughter of more than 15,000 dolphins every year for their skin to be used as shark bait, even though it is illegal to hunt or kill dolphins in Peru.

In the waters around Costa Rica’s Cocos Island, a shark-rich marine reserve and migratory corridor for endangered hammerheads, illegal fishers continually hunt sharks within the reserve boundaries. Illegal fishing, pirate fishing, black market fishing, regardless of term, is labeled as the reserve’s biggest threat. There is inadequate enforcement, little accountability or repercussions for breaking the law, but big payoff. Six of thirty-three vessels caught have been targets of criminal investigations, many others given only a slap on the wrist if enforcement agencies cannot catch them red-handed.

Officials from the Galapagos National park, National Police, and Ecuadorian Navy confiscate 365 sharks found illegally fished from inside the marine reserve.  Photo Credit: The Galapagos National Park
The Galápagos, once Darwin’s stomping grounds, named a ‘living museum and showcase of evolution,’ is no stranger to illegal fishing. Cheap and easy to use, long lines are set by fishermen to catch whatever animal will take the bait. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake from blue, dusky, Galápagos, and hammerhead sharks, and the combination traders paying top dollar for shark fins and little enforcement is an open invitation to illegally poach.

Protected waters, like those of the Galápagos and Cocos Island marine reserves act as a draw for illegal fishing activity, away from the watchful eye of authorities. Enforcement needs to be strong, penalties stiff, and governments, from law enforcement to the judiciary, steadfast in their laws and authority to stop illegal poaching of sharks and subsequent denial of port entry of those products. By turning away illegally-caught sharks at port, national and international policies can deter IUU fishermen and stop this kind of activity from paying off.

The Coast Guard Cutter Rush escorts a high seas illegal fishing vessel back to port. Photo Credit: US Coast Guard.
Illegal fishing laws, like the international treaty, Port States Measures Agreement (PSMA), while ostensibly a security measure, acts as conservation measures by requiring countries to exert tighter controls over what comes into their ports. Illegal fishers rely on loopholes in laws and relaxed inspections to get away with offloading their catch. International efforts, like PSMA, can increase the ability to inspect and turn away illegal cargo.

As seafood consumption and subsequent fishing efforts continue to rise, it is essential to link both shark conservation and illegal fishing efforts. Shark finning and shark fin soup have for years been the focus of conservation campaigns, but cracking down on illegal fishing will also help decrease shark mortality. For measures like PSMA to be effective for illegal fishing and shark conservation, we need to continually pressure countries to adopt treaties to close those loopholes.

It is no secret that illegal fishing takes effort to enforce. Though only five of the top 26 shark-fishing countries lack a national plan of action for illegal shark fishing, poachers are adept at skirting laws and evading law enforcement. Luckily, tools like PSMA already exist aimed at closing illegal shark fishing loopholes by ensuring only legally caught sharks and shark products enter countries’ ports. This international agreement, when adopted, would markedly increase the rate and ease of enforcement as well as stop illegal shark fishing from paying off. When there are no more places for fishermen to hide and the incentive stops, so can illegal shark fishing.

Lindsay Jennings is an Ocean Policy Fellow at the Marine Conservation Institute and part of University of Miami’s RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program. You can follow her on Twitter.

Friday, October 17, 2014

H.E. Tony deBrum on Shark Sanctuaries

The Marshall Islands are world leaders on issues of shark and tuna conservation, global climate change, and nuclear non-proliferation. Here's Minister Tony deBrum discussing the shark sanctuaries in the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Federated States of Micronesia.

International Ocean Roundup XIII

Here's the latest ocean news to keep you up to date.  Happy reading!


Chilean Near-Shore Fisheries: From Shutdown to Successful Management
Chile – 8 October 2014 – National Geographic
Today, Chile is a global example for good near-shore fisheries management. The emblematic Chilean abalone, and other important seafood, like mussels, limpets, and sea urchins live in the rocky and sandy bottoms along the Chilean coast and support the livelihoods of 50,000 artisanal fishermen and their families as a primary source of income.

Common Fisheries Policy for Caribbean approved as final policy
Belize - 15 October 2014 – The Bahamas Weekly
The Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), comprised of Ministers responsible for Agriculture from across the Caribbean Community, has confirmed the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy as a final policy document for the Community.

EU Lifts Fisheries Ban
Belize – 15 October 2014 – 7 News Belize
After years of back and forth on the issue – culminating in an international ban and a black eye for Belize, the European Fisheries Commission has decided to lift the fisheries ban on Belize, which will allow high seas vessels with the Belizean flag to export fisheries products to Europe.

FFA clarifies Kiribati US Treaty decision
Kiribati – 15 October 2014 – Pacific Island News
The regional Fisheries agency leading the just-ended annual fisheries negotiations with the US has clarified that the Kiribati’s cuts to fishing days for US purse seiners in its waters was part of the negotiated deal.

Three Chinese Fishermen Jailed for Violence
China – 14 October 2014 – The Chosunilbo
Three Chinese fishermen have been jailed for acts of violence against Korean coast guard officers who were conducting a crackdown on illegal fishing in Korean waters.

Exploitation in Taiwan's $2bn fishing industry
Taiwan – 10 October 2014 –
The story of Yim Bun Then, a Cambodian rice farmer, is one you will not hear about when buying "Made in Taiwan" seafood at your local supermarket.

Kiribati’s “Force-Out” of US Fleet Confirmed
Kiribati – 14 October 2014 – (subscription required)
In what was described as a shock move by Kiribati, the Pacific Island nation broke regional collaboration and announced it would only offer 300 fishing days to the US/FFA Treaty deal.

China's illegal fishing
South Korea – 13 October 2014 – The Korea Times
Following the death of the captain of a Chinese fishing vessel on Friday, the possibility of a diplomatic spat between Seoul and Beijing has grown. The Chinese Foreign Ministry called in the South Korean envoy in Beijing after the tragic incident and urged Seoul to punish those responsible.

The Big Lie Behind Japanese Whaling
Japan – 13 October 2014 – The New York Times
The International Court of Justice’s decision last March to prohibit Japan’s annual whale hunt in Antarctic waters was greeted by many as an historic step against a reprehensible practice. Yet last month, despite the enormous diplomatic toll, Japan vowed to continue its whaling activities under a controversial research program of dubious scientific merit.

Six Crew Willingly Jump Off Taiwan Ship
Japan – 13 October 2014 – Maritime Executive
Six Vietnamese mariners have reportedly jumped off a Taiwanese fisheries ship in the Tsuruga Strait off southern Hokkaido, according to the Japanese Coast Guard. Ships and aircraft scoured the area over the weekend to no avail.

China Tuna Industry Group admits breaching quotas for vulnerable species in Pacific
China – 14 October 2014 – ABC News
China is distancing itself from a major Chinese-operated tuna fishing company that has admitted breaching quotas for the most vulnerable species in the Pacific.

Philippines to stop issuing new fishing vessel licenses for 3 years
Philippines – 14 October 2014 – BusinessWorld
THE PHILIPPINES will temporarily stop issuing new licenses for new commercial fishing vessels and fishing gear for three years to conserve its fish stocks.The moratorium will cover “any [fishing] boat, ship, or other watercraft” weighing 3.1 gross tons and above, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said in its Circular No. 253 dated October 8, 2014.

Region's fishing industry 'still chaotic and corrupt': Chulalongkorn seminar
Thailand – 15 October 2014 - The National
MANY PROBLEMS related to human trafficking and the lack of efficient administration in the overseas fishing industry remain unsolved, a seminar at Chulalongkorn University (CU)'s Asia Research Centre for Migration was told. Speakers said administration issues were leading to continued labour exploitation, corruption and harming the environment.

Fishermen caught trying to herd Kingfish into a different zone to avoid marine sanctuary
Australia – 16 October 2014 – ABC News
Fishermen on Lower Eyre Peninsula in South Australia have been caught trying to circumvent new Marine Park zones - by herding fish out of them.

European Commission awards Fiji a Fisheries "Green Card"!
Fiji – 15 October 2014 – Pacific Islands News Association
The European Commission has congratulated Fiji on its successful measures to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing through legal reforms and new rules for inspection, control and monitoring of vessels – all of which have now resulted in the European Commission's withdrawal of its formal warning against Fiji.

Four years of data to enhance our knowledge on bigeye tuna
New Caledonia – 16 October 2014 – Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Predominantly west-to-east movements and geographical concentration – the Equatorial Pacific bigeye tuna’s behaviour is gradually revealing its secrets. This and other findings have been reported in a new scientific paper authored by scientists from SPC and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, published recently in the journal Fisheries Research.

SL will comply with requirements
Sri Lanka – 16 October 2014 – Daily News
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said that Sri Lanka will comply with the European Commission requirements and deal with the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels within the next three months.

EU Ambassador gets inside look at FFA, IUU fisheries surveillance
Solomon Islands – 12 October 2014 – Solomon Star
The European Union’s newly-introduced Ambassador to the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu has added another first to his portfolio as he settles into his role, seeing from the inside how regional surveillance over fisheries is being led by the Pacific's Honiara-based Fisheries Surveillance Centre.

Agreement to monitor illegal vessels
Fiji – 14 October 2014 – The Fiji Times Online
THE Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority will not release any vessel suspected of illegal fishing unless its release is authorised by the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests. A memorandum of understanding was signed by the two parties last week which allows the two bodies to work together in the monitoring, control and surveillance of local and foreign fishing vessels that use Fiji ports for landing their catch, transshipment, bunkering or for provisioning of other services.

WWF Report: Illegal fishing puts Russian crab stocks at risk of collapse
Russia – 16 October 2014 –
Rampant illegal fishing is putting crab stocks in the Russian Far East at risk of collapse, a new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report shows. More than 10 years of trade and customs data reveals major discrepancies between the reported amount of crab caught in Russian waters and the amount imported into receiving countries, including Japan, South Korea and the US.

The bloody fight against illegal fishing by Chinese boats
China – 17 October 2014 – The Hankyoreh
Coast Guard officials face violent resistance from Chinese crews fishing illegally of the southern coast

Global monitoring offer for Pacific fisheries
Pacific – 14 October 2014 – Radio New Zealand International
Pacific Island countries are being offered access to a so-called virtual watchroom to help combat illegal fishing in their waters.

Europe – MENA
3 Egyptian boats seized in Yemen waters for illegal fishing
Yemem – 12 October 2014 –
Yemeni Coast Guard forces seized on Sunday three Egyptian fishing boats were fishing randomly and illegally in Yemeni territorial waters in the Red Sea.

Illegal fisheries: green cards for five countries, but red card for Sri Lanka
E.U. – 14 October 2014 – European Commission
In its fight against illegal fishing activities worldwide, the European Commission has today proposed to ban imports of fisheries products from Sri Lanka to tackle the commercial benefits stemming from illegal fishing. The move comes after four years of intense dialogue with the country after which it could not demonstrate that it sufficiently addressed illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. In contrast, the Commission today confirmed that Belize, Fiji, Panama, Togo and Vanuatu, which had received warnings at the same time as Sri Lanka, have successfully taken measures to tackle illegal fishing. Consequently, the Commission proposes to lift the trade measures imposed in March this year against Belize.

EU to ban fisheries products from SL. Here are the reasons
E.U. – 16 October 2014 –
The European Union (EU) says that three month period given to Sri Lanka prior to ban imports of fisheries products from is a further opportunity to cooperate and implement the necessary changes. However, Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne said that Sri Lankan will comply with the EC standards and deal with IUU fishing vessels soon before three months deadline.

EU-Guinea Bissau fishing agreement renewal deems satisfactory
Spain – 17 October 2014 –
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment (MAGRAMA) welcomed the renewal of the fisheries agreement between the European Union (EU) and Guinea Bissau, which guarantees fishing opportunities to the Spanish fleet, especially in the case of the cephalopod and seafood fleet.

Illegal Fishing Rampant as West African Nations Pay Heavy Price
West Africa – 10 October 2014 –
West African countries are almost powerless to prevent illegal fishing that is depleting stocks and robbing states of revenue, according to a fisheries expert who is visiting the region.

Namibia: Expert Applauds Namibia's Quota System
Namibia – 13 October 2014 – All Africa
NAMIBIA received a pat on the back for its quota system to regulate the harvesting of fish in Namibian waters. Quotas are allocated to individuals or companies to harvest a certain amount of fish in a certain period of time. Professor Daniel Pauly, a world expert on global fisheries who attended the Global Large Marine Ecosystem conference in Swakopmund recently, said the quota system is the best for sustaining and increasing fish stocks.

Senegal: Reviewing of the Fisheries Code and Its Enforcement Decree
Senegal – 14 October 2014 – All Africa
Senegalese call for an ambitious Fisheries law to protect their resources. Today, thousands of Senegalese have joined Greenpeace and other organizations' call to President Macky Sall to act and give the country a fisheries code that can ensure environmentally sustainable and socially equitable exploitation of its fishery resources.

MSC holds first stakeholder meeting in developing world
South Africa – 16 October 2014 –
The London-based Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) is drawing together fisheries leaders and NGOs in Cape Town, South Africa to discuss solutions to overfishing at its first Stakeholder Council meeting to be held in the developing world. At the meeting, government delegates from Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, the Seychelles, South Africa and Tanzania shared their experiences.

WWF Mozambique signed the UN convention designed to stop illegal fishing
Mozambique – 14 October 2014 –
Mozambique's government has signed a UN agreement to combat illegal fishing. The agreement will make it easier for coastal states to track down illegal activities in the fisheries sector, which represents a major challenge to development in African coastal communities. According to a WWF interview with Mozambique's fisheries minister Monday, October 13.

ECJ finds Swedish fisheries in Western Sahara illegal
Western Sahara – 12 October 2014 –
The European Court of Justice has in an answer to a question from a Swedish court of appeal informed that private fisheries agreements with Moroccan authorities are not allowed outside of the context of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement.

Eye in the sky to net illegal fishermen
Global – 12 October 2014 – The Sunday Times (see attached .pdf)
BRITAIN is to build the first satellite system designed to tackle illegal fishing by tracking the fishing vessels back to port so that law enforcement agencies can be tipped off. The system will use current satellite networks linked to powerful software that can track tens of thousands of vessels at once all over the world. It will follow their movements, spot when and where they are fishing and then check if they have a right to be there.

Oceans experiencing largest sea rise in 6,000 years, study says
Global – 14 October 2014 – The Washington Post
There are two main forces that can drive sea levels higher. One is something called thermal expansion, which involves the expansion of ocean water as it warms. The other is an influx of additional water, ushered into the sea by melting ice sheets and glaciers. Scientists have long concluded that sea levels are rising. Just look at Miami. Or the Maldives. They’ve also discerned that major ice sheets are melting at a faster clip than previously understood.

Organised criminals are looting Earth’s resources, says Greenpeace Africa
Global – 16 October 2014 –
THE THIRD and final day of the 35th Annual Crime Stoppers International Conference has heard about an emerging trend – the prevalence of organised criminals. Crimes, including those committed against the environment, gangsterism and fraud, were discussed at the event held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Leonardo DiCaprio Donates $2 Million to Create Marine Reserves and Stop Illegal Fishing
Global – 16 October 2014 – Hollywood Reporter
Leonardo DiCaprio on Thursday announced that his foundation is donating $2 million to Oceans 5, an international collective dedicated to stopping illegal fishing and establishing marine reserves in the world’s five oceans.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kiribati and China in the Headlines

There has been lots of media attention concerning tuna fishing in the Pacific in the last two weeks. How does this pertain to sharks? Tuna boats catch a vast share of the world's sharks, and half the world's tuna comes out of the western Pacific.

Here are a few highlights for your reading pleasure:

September 25, 2014
$1 Million Grant to Support World’s 3rd Largest Fully Protected Area
Today, the Waitt Foundation and Oceans 5, in close partnership with the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, agreed to make a joint grant of $1 million to support implementation of Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). The PIPA will be fully protected by January 2015, when the government will exclude commercial fishing vessels from a 410,000 square kilometer area, spanning nearly the size of California.

October 3, 2014
Kiribati loses a million dollars to cyber crime
The police in Kiribati have launched an investigation into the theft of more than 1.1 million US dollars through what the goverment is calling cyber crime. The Minister of Commerce Pinto Katia has told parliament that the missing money has been stolen and there was nothing they could do to avoid such theft as it involved highly sophisticated skills. The Kiribati Independent reports that the money relates to the wiring of money to an overseas account in order to purchase a landing craft for the Line and Phoenix islands.

October 8, 2014
Pacific Island nations secure $90m tuna deal with United States
Pacific Island countries and the United States have reached a $90 million tuna deal, which is believed to be the world's most lucrative fishing access agreement.

October 10, 2014
Kiribati deal shocks fishing world
A tiny South Pacific nation has shocked the fishing world by revealing without warning that it has forced most of the American tuna fleet out of its vast waters and is letting Chinese and Taiwanese boats take over.

October 14, 2014
China Tuna Industry Group admits breaching quotas for vulnerable species in Pacific
In a draft prospectus presented to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the China Tuna Industry Group revealed China had exceeded the catch quotas for Bigeye and Yellowfin tuna for three of the last four years for which records are available.
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