Greenpeace claims Taiwanese vessel boarded near Papua New Guinea only ‘tip of the iceberg’
Environmentalist group Greenpeace claims to have uncovered a pirate fishing operation near Papua New Guinea. The group said similar cases were the “tip of the iceberg” of pirate fishing which had driven a sharp decline in tuna populations.
Activists from the Rainbow Warrior II boarded the tuna longliner Shuen De Ching No.888 to discover found it had no license to fish in Pacific waters. The Taiwanese vessel allegedly had 75kg of illegally caught shark fins and irregularities in its tuna catch logbook. Only three sharks were logged yet sacks containing 75kg of fins suggested a haul of at least 42 specimens. This suggested a “clear violation” of both Taiwanese and Pacific fishing laws, under which fins may not exceed 5% of the weight of the total shark catch.
Greenpeace said Taiwan’s fishing agency retrospectively rushed through the ship’s paperwork with the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission after activists lodged a complaint with both bodies. The Shuen De Ching sailed from Taiwan on 27 June 27th, spending two months in the area 1,300 nautical miles north of Australia before the apparently belated move to have its activity declared legal.
Mistake or cover-up
Greenpeace campaigner Lagi Toribau said was now up to authorities to show whether this was “an administrative fault or really covering up the tracks of this vessel”. “Prior to us getting on board the vessel, we were able to get official confirmation from the relevant authorities in this region that this vessel did not have authorization,” he added.
“What we’ve done is highlight the loophole in the system. This vessel has been out here for two months. If we did not find this vessel, then it could have been fishing in here for years and no one would have detected it or known how much fish they were actually taking out of the Pacific,” Toribau said.
The accusation comes when leaders in the Pacific Island forum work on a 10-year plan for a sustainable fishing industry in a region that supplies 70% of the world’s tuna catch. According to Toribau, most Pacific island nations each possess a sole patrol boat police to police an area with “a surface area greater than Mars”. “There is a Taiwanese patrol boat in the region and this is exactly the sort of illegal activity they should be tackling,” he said.
Chronic overfishing was the result of “out of control” longline fishing vessels, with lines up to 170km long and thousands of baited hooks. As well as plundering tuna stocks, the lines kill large numbers of sharks, turtles and seabirds annually.