Saturday

29th Apr 2017

EU blacklist fails to name fish pirates

  • The European Commission says 39 percent of assessed fish stocks in EU waters of the Northeast Atlantic are overfished (Photo: EU commission)

The European Commission has updated its list of fishing vessels banned from selling their catches in the EU, but pro-environment critics say it is not enough.

Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Monday (15 July) signed off the list as part of Brussels' wider efforts to stop over-fishing.

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Some 66 boats, all flying non-EU flags, are on the list.

Eight of them once belonged to a notorious Spanish family of fishing pirates.

EU fisheries spokesperson Oliver Drewes says the list is copy pasted from regional fisheries management organisations.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) figure among the organisations that have flagged vessels the EU placed on its blacklist.

“This is complementary to the EU's own initiative enforcement which is currently focused, as a matter of priority, on assessing third countries' IUU [illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing] regimes as highlighted by the yellow cards handed out in November 2012,” said Drewes in an email.

The names and identities of the vessels’ owners are not included.

But Greenpeace says it tracked down the owners of the Black Moon trawler, which flies a Tanzanian flag under the new name Huang He 22.

The boat has also flown flags from Uruguay, St Vincent & Grenadines, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, Panama, and North Korea.

Its owners are still allegedly one of Europe's most notorious families of fishing pirates.

Greenpeace say the boat belongs to the Vidal family of Spain, through a company called Vidal Armadores.

One of the leaders of family, Vidal Pego, was convicted in 2006 by the United States for attempting to smuggle illegally-caught Patagonian toothfish.

He was fined $400,000 and received a four-year probation.

The UK last July fined the Vidal family £1.62 million for failing to register the transfer of fish between vessels, providing bogus fish quotas, and giving false weight readings at sea.

But the family also received almost €16 million in EU fishing subsidies between 2002 and 2009, according to Greenpeace.

Seven other boats on the commission list also once belonged to the Vidal family.

Saskia Richartz of Greenpeace told this website that “as it stands, the EU blacklist is not yet an effective naming and shaming tool.”

She said the commission is slow in responding to new cases and appears to shy away from listing the owners of vessels.

The names of vessels change often to avoid prosecution and tax systems.

Changing names often entails just painting the new one on the boat.

Others fly flags from states that have no coastlines, like the Lana, which flew the Mongolian flag.

Getting a new flag is also relatively simple. Ship owners often fill out an online form and pay an administrative fee.

However, most have an official International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number.

The number cannot be easily changed but can be hidden from view out at sea.

Vessels removed from the list include the Jinn Fenn Tsair No 1 from Taiwan, the Mar Cantabrico from Bolivia, the North Ocean/Boston/Boston-1 from China and the West Ocean/Kiev/Darvin, also from China.

Both the North Ocean/Boston/Boston-1 and the Ocean/Kiev/Darvin previously flew under Georgian and Russian flags.

The latest addition is Keshan, also known as the Baiyangdian or the Pacific Duchess.

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The controversial 'discard' practice of throwing dead fish back into the sea faces an effective ban as part of an overhaul of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy.

Member states vary in EU 'polluter pays' rules

An EU directive aimed at supporting the "polluter pays principle" has resulted in a patchwork situation, but the European Commission is not yet ready to propose a change.

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