Trawler seized over IUU fishing in 2014 sunk off Spanish coast

The engine room of the Oleg Naydenov, a pelagic trawler flagged to the Russian Federation, caught fire on 11 April whilst the vessel had been docked at the port of Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands.

Photo Credit: Salvamento Marino via Reuters

Photo Credit: Salvamento Marino via Reuters

The vessel, which at the time had been carrying a load of cardboard in its hold, was evacuated and tugged away from port for fears that its laden fuel tank might explode.

Whilst there were hopes that, having controlled the fire, the vessel might survive the incident, Oleg Naydenov has now sank to a depth of 2.4 Km laden with over 1,400 tons of fuel. Environmental organisations have indicated that the ensuing leak may be endangering deep coral and marine mammal habitats.

Oleg Naydenov was seized in 2014 by Senegalese authorities over allegations of repeated IUU fishing behaviour. Spain’s authorities are investigating the circumstances surrounding the fire and subsequent sinking of the vessel.

The sinking of the Oleg Naydenov is the second high profile incident involving the destruction of a vessel linked to allegations of IUU fishing in unclear circumstances. The Interpol listed IUU fishing vessel Thunder sank earlier this month in an apparent scuttling incident in the waters of Sao Tome after a 110 day pursuit by the Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker.

Sources

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/04/16/uk-ship-spain-environment-idUKKBN0N71XE20150416

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25621864

https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/157823/update-oleg-naydenov-sinks-off-canary-islands/

http://www.worldfishing.net/news101/industry-news/thunder-sinking-could-have-been-deliberate

Why Addressing Illegal Fishing Could Help Combat Piracy

Large fishing vessel operating in the South Pacific (Credit: www.afma.gov.au)

Large fishing vessel operating in the South Pacific (Credit: http://www.afma.gov.au)

There are many factors that may compromise fish abundance. Some, like the effects of raising temperature, acidification, algal blooms or changing currents can be difficult to predict and act upon. But illegal fishing is one cause of stock depletion that can be addressed and controlled.

Our grossly oversized global fishing fleets are engaged in a fierce effort to capture their share of a decreasing volume of fish stocks. This level of competition, plus a lack of effective fishing vessel controls encourage illegal fishing, organised transnational fisheries crime and cross-over criminal activities.[1]

Like other types of unlawful maritime activity, illegal fishing takes place with more frequency and intensity in coastal maritime regions that governments are less able to monitor, access and control. In these areas, legitimate economic activities have little official protection against the threat of abuse and crime.

Large industrial vessels can illegally harvest vast quantities of fish that subsistence fisherfolk in vulnerable areas depend on. Local official corruption frequently results in the illegal operators being protected and encouraged to act again. Given the efficiency of modern fishing vessels, protracted predatory incursions into the traditional fishing grounds of others may cause enduring fish depletion.[2]

The collapse of fish stocks and ensuing marine environmental degradation are good reasons to put illegal fishing control high on governments agendas. However, recent research by Markus Ludwig and Matthias Fluckiger, of the University of Basel, has highlighted an additional, compelling reason why illegal fishing should be stopped: Piracy.

Photo Credit: Fara Abdi Warsameh, Associated Press

Photo Credit: Fara Abdi Warsameh, Associated Press

Narratives linking foreign illegal fishing as a driver for piracy are not new (see, for example, the work of Bueger on Somali piracy as a form of fisheries vigilantism in Somalia).[3]

However, the Basel University study is novel, taking a wide snapshot of data from 109 coastal countries on the strength of an original, objective methodology to draw its conclusion: That a significant decrease in fish catches can encourage piracy in fishing communities.

The study found that a 1% increase in fish catches can result in a decrease in piracy activity by 1%. The researchers point out that detected increases in piracy activity are likely to be a reaction to the temporary lack in available legitimate income opportunities, rather than a willingness to engage in lifelong criminal careers.

According to the study, the effect of negative fishery productivity changes can be far-reaching, given the detrimental effect that piracy can have on maritime economic activities like transport and other trade.

The logical conclusion is that combatting illegal fishing and prioritising policy measures to discourage it including the prosecution of those involved in fisheries illegality and crime may also be seen as tool to reducing incentives for piracy.

For access to the paper by Ludwig and Fluckiger, see http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/56959 .

[1] For more information on this topic, see Interpol’s Project Scale http://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Environmental-crime/Resources .

[2] For a recently reported example, see the case of the Fiji tuna fisheries http://www.undercurrentnews.com/2014/01/20/fiji-tuna-groups-cut-down-fleet-as-industry-faces-total-collapse/ .

[3]http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01436597.2013.851896#.U75_EdxU3fM .

 

Europe and illegal fishing: Ghana responds to the threat of market closure

Ghana has been in the news following its designation by the European Union as a possible candidate for its “List of Non-Cooperating Third Countries” (the infamous list of countries who fail to tackle illegal fishing carried out by their fleets).

Along with South Korea and Curacao, Ghana was firmly shown a yellow card by the European Commission in November last year after it emerged that it had failed to identify and prevent infractions of ICCAT conservation and management measures established carried out by its tuna fleet. For the uninitiated, ICCAT is the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, and it governs the fishery of tuna and other highly migratory species in an important region of the Atlantic.

The European Commission has already cracked down on countries it believes to be lenient on illegal fishing (Belize, Cambodia and Guinea). The effect of this has been that the three countries, now classed as “Non-Cooperating”, have lost their ability to export their fish to the EU until they can demonstrate that they have cleaned up their act. Further, European fleets are no longer working in the three EEZs and the three countries have lost the corresponding licence revenues.

A red card from the European Commission could have dire consequences for Ghana. It relies heavily on European markets and European investment for the production and processing of fish and, in a country where 10% of the population relies on fisheries for work the damage could be profound.

But the West African country has reacted: it has produced a fisheries management plan and has just announced that it will be joining a 5 year programme, funded by GEF, to improve monitoring, control and compliance of its tuna fleets. The programme, endorsed by WWF, involves rolling out technology that will enable to better estimate tuna catches.

Meanwhile, in has also received public support from Japan. The Japanese government has made it clear that it will partner Ghana and will contribute towards its development, possibly hinting at the fact that, should the EU withdraw its commercial partnerships with Ghanaian fisheries, other powerful fishing nations will be prepared to fill the gap.

Original Articles:

http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/business/artikel.php?ID=309095

http://www.undercurrentnews.com/2014/05/13/ghana-teams-up-with-wwf-issf-fao-in-illegal-fishing-fight/

Maritime Insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea: Illegal Fishing Matters

Like piracy, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing tends to occur in areas marred by insecurity challenges, underdevelopment and poor governance. The European Commission has identified IUU fishing as a key risk for its strategy purposes in the Gulf of Guinea.

Fishing vessel at sunset

Despite ongoing overexploitation concerns, the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a strategically important fishing ground for European fleets. The existence of bilateral fisheries agreements between the EU and Cape Verde, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe and Mauritania speak for themselves. Further, private licence agreements also provide European vessels with access to the EEZs of other nations in the region.

A recent article by Ioannis Chapsos (see full text here), of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies, also highlights the importance of the Gulf of Guinea as a source of oil and gas for the EU, particularly in the light of recent tensions with the Russian Federation (currently Europe’s key energy supplier). 

It is therefore hardly surprising that the EU is seeking to understand and address insecurity issues in the Gulf. What is interesting is that IUU fishing is being given such relevance in the context of European objectives. Perhaps this is a sign of the EU’s recognition that illegal fishing has a powerful destabilising potential. It can derail fledgling coastal development and resilience initiatives as well as persistently undermine attempts at sustainability in the fishing industry itself. 

Implementation efforts by the Gulf of Guinea Commission, ECCAS and ECOWAS concerning their ‘Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Ships and Illicit Activity in West and Central Africa’ will no doubt be key to future EU strategy development and outcomes.

With the region’s economic outlook and value as emerging market raising expectations despite persistent risks, there is unprecedented interest in IUU fishing, its effects on West Africa and, more widely, on Europe’s long term interests.