European fishing fleets accused of illegally fishing tuna in the Indian Ocean | Sin
According to data presented to EU authorities and analyzed by expert groups, European fishing fleets are illegally catching tuna in nets from declining stocks in the Indian Ocean.
Purse seine (a type of large net) fishing vessels from the EU were present in the waters of Indian Ocean coastal states, where they were likely to have taken unauthorized catches, and reported catches in the marine protected area of the Chagos Archipelago and in the exclusive economic zone of Mozambique. area.
Two surveys have been carried out on Indian Ocean fishing, one led by the OceanMind group and the other by the Blue Marine Foundation charity together with Kroll, the corporate survey company. The first report found evidence, from publicly available data published by the EU on its fishing fleet from 2016 to 2020, that EU vessels have fished in the region, where major catches include species skipjack tuna, bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna. The Blue Marine Foundation later determined that the vessels were unauthorized.
The second report, from the Blue Marine Foundation and Kroll, looked at data from ship monitoring software, called the Automatic Identification System (AIS), and found that some ships in the area had turned it off, which could indicate unauthorized fishing.
Tuna populations are under increasing pressure as industrialized fishing fleets take advantage of the growing market for the popular fish. Expanding tuna fishing could lead to extinction, scientists have warned.
The latest NGO findings, presented to government officials at a meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission in Seychelles this week, highlight the problem of illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing in around the world and EU vessels catching depleting stocks. developing countries.
Analysts also found instances where vessels had ‘gone dark’ – disabled monitoring via AIS, which transmits a vessel’s position and is a safety tool that can also be used to ensure fishermen abide by the rules – at key points, suggesting they might have engaged in IUU fishing.
According to the findings of the Blue Marine Foundation, some EU vessels in the western Indian Ocean went dark for an average of three quarters of the period from January 1, 2017 to April 30, 2019.
The Guardian spoke to a person familiar with the licensing situation, who confirmed that EU vessels have not had a license to fish in Somali waters since 2013. The Blue Marine Foundation said authorities India had also confirmed that they had not issued licenses to EU vessels.
Anne-France Mattlet, director of the tuna group of the EU fishing trade association Europêche, said: “EU purse seiners have not fished in Somali waters.”
A European Commission official said: “The EU has strict zero tolerance for IUU fishing. In order to combat IUU fishing in the IOTC Convention area, the EU has also tabled a proposal to establish a system of boarding and inspection on the high seas, building on the work already carried out within the IT’S YOU.
“It would be an important tool to better control fishing activities on the high seas and continue to fight against IUU fishing. We have also tabled a proposal to improve the traditionally weak compliance process of the IOTC, with greater emphasis on the categorization and follow-up of established non-compliance situations.
The spokesperson said fishing crews may have valid reasons to turn off their AIS technology, and transmission strength and signal may vary from location to location.
“[Going dark] does not imply that they are fishing illegally. AIS may be disabled in certain circumstances by professional judgment of the captain,” the spokesperson said. “The information provided by AIS may not be a complete picture of the situation in the area and the vessel’s activity.”
Charles Clover, the executive director of Blue Marine Foundation, defended his claims. “The report showing the locations of EU vessels is based on the findings of a study commissioned by the Blue Marine Foundation and undertaken by OceanMind – a highly reputable organization – which in turn was based on publicly available data reported by the EU and published by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission on its website,” he said.
“These data show, for example, evidence of fishing by Spanish-flagged vessels in the waters of Somalia, in 2017 and 2018, and India, in 2018 and 2019.”
He added: “There is evidence to suggest that some of these fleets are fishing in the waters of coastal states without any authorization and we call on the European Commission to investigate these cases as a matter of urgency.”
The Guardian has also approached the Spanish government for comment.