Exodus: Thousands of Chinese trawlers rushed out into the East China Sea after 3 month fishing moratorium

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I just saw some incredible pictures in the Daily Mail that provide just a hint of the colossal volume of Chinese fishing capacity. The photo- article entitled “Out to lunch: Extraordinary moment thousands of Chinese trawlers head out to sea after three-month ban on fishing is lifted” provides a glimpse of the capacity of chinese fishing capacity, keeping in mind that all of these vessels are departing from one port; Ningbo in Zhejiang Province!

Thousands of Chinese trawlers rushed out into the East China Sea today after a three-month-long summer fishing moratorium ended. 

These incredible images of boats setting out from a harbour in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, show just why China harvests more fish than any other country.

Although China has one fifth of the world’s population, it consumes a third of the world’s fish – some 50 million tonnes a year.

Casting off: Thousands of Chinese trawlers rush out into the East China Sea at the end of a yearly three-month-long fishing ban designed to allow stocks to recover

Right, plaice, right time: These incredible images of boats setting out from a harbour in  Zhejiang Province, show just why China harvests more fish than any other country

Sprawling and trawling: Although China has one fifth of the world's population, it consumes a third of the world's fish - some 50million tonnes a year

Reeling them in: The worldwide average of fish consumption is just over 16 kilos a year, but in China the average person will get through almost twice that

Every year, there is a three-month ban on fishing to allow stocks to breed and recover, but it has done little to stop a massive decline

The worldwide average of fish consumption is just over 16 kilos a year, but in China the average person will get through almost twice that.

Every year, there is a three-month ban on fishing to allow stocks to breed and recover, but it has done little to stop a massive decline.

Fishermen themselves blame pollution, but environmental experts say overfishing has in particular decimated the numbers of mature adult fish and has made many varieties almost impossible now to find.

For locals in Ningbo, the annual sight of the boats once again setting out into the Pacific Ocean at the start of the fishing season is a good reason for a day trip out. 

Fishermen themselves blame pollution, but environmental experts say overfishing has in particular decimated the numbers of mature adult fish

For locals in Ningbo, the annual sight of the boats once again setting out into the Pacific Ocean at the start of the fishing season is a good reason for a day trip out

But for the fishermen themselves, the start of the season is unlikely to bring good news.

Catches of the four main species – the Japanese Spanish mackerel, eel and the large and small yellow croaker – have plummeted.

In the past, a successful fishing trip might have netted hundreds of kilograms of the large yellow croaker, but according to one captain most fishermen only get a few a year now, meaning prices were now forty or fifty times as much.

Mo Zhaolan, a researcher at China’s Institute of Oceanology, said that overfishing and pollution were having a much bigger impact than a decade ago.

Once large and valuable fish have been overfished, attention turns to a less valuable species, with the process continuing until all species have been over-exploited, fisheries depleted and biodiversity irreparably damaged.

Catches of the four main species ¿ the Japanese Spanish mackerel, eel and the large and small yellow croaker ¿ have plummeted

Fishing boats head out to sea in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, China after the summer fishing suspension endsFishing boats head out to sea in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, China after the summer fishing suspension ends
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A disease (Klebsiella pneumonia) is killing Auckland Island sea lion pups in unsustainable numbers!

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I have just received a sobering media statement that was released by Deepwater Group yesterday (22 February 2014) that provides information on the New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri) pup survival.

Disease is killing 600 sea lion pups at the Auckland Islands each year.

The disease Klebsiella pneumonia is killing Auckland Island sea lions in unsustainable numbers. The Deepwater Group, which represents the squid fishing fleet off the Auckland Islands, has written to Conservation Minister Nick Smith on the eve of his departure for the Southern Ocean on HMNZS Wellington today. It has requested the government intervene to save the endangered New Zealand sea lion population which uses the Auckland Islands as its main breeding ground. According to George Clement (Deepwater CEO), in the 1990s, around 34 per cent of sea lions survived to breeding age.

A bacterial disease, Klebsiella pneumoniae, somehow got into this population around 13 years ago. It is killing a third or more of the pups before they reach the age of two – leaving fewer than 15 per cent to survive to breeding age.” 

“This means that in the early 1990s around 900 pups survived to breeding age each year and now only around 200 pups are surviving to breed. As a result, this population is in decline.”

“As alarming as these numbers are, the real situation could yet prove to be worse because we have already lost many of the sea lions which would now be breeding. Unless we roll up our sleeves and do something to halt the effects of this epidemic on the pups, this population is likely to decline further before it can increase.”

George Clement says the seafood industry has told Nick Smith that it is offering to work with government and with experts in veterinary science, animal husbandry and in treating animal diseases, to find practical solutions to save the sea lions.

Interventions are urgently needed that will prevent this disease from reducing the population further. Klebsiella infections in humans can be treated with antibiotics, so a way has to be found to prevent the young sea lions dying before they leave for sea.”

In the past, the seafood industry has been blamed as the main threat to sea lions. But when 600 pups die each year from disease and 15 adults are killed by fishing, it is evident this population will continue to decline, even if there are no further deaths from fishing.”

As an industry we’ve invested a huge amount over the past ten years to reduce incidental sea lion bycatch in our catch management, in particular refining the Sea Lion Escape Devices (SLEDs) which have drastically reduced the risk to the sea lions from fishing.”

But this disease is a much bigger threat than fishing ever was. We want to work together with government and experts in various disease disciplines, both from New Zealand and overseas, and any NGOs as well, to save the unique New Zealand sea lions from extinction”.

Graph Showing New Zealand Sea Lion Pup Mortalities over time. Source: Deepwater Group Media Release

Graph Showing New Zealand Sea Lion Pup Mortalities over time. Source: Deepwater Group Media Release

I am trying to make sense of the numbers provided in the graphs above. At first blush the “red” sector stating that 32% of pups born between 2005-2010 died from disease, stands out. But on further analysis its the “green” sector that is the most sobering:

  •  34% of pups born between 1990 t0 1993 survived to breed as adults
  •  14% of pups born between 2005 t0 2010 survived to breed as adults

The effects of this are enormous. Lets consider this numerically!

  • For arguments sake, let’s say 1000 pups were born in 1992. According to the figures above, 340 of these would survive to breed (note 170 of these would be females). These 340 breeding adults would produce maybe 170 pups.  Of these 170 pups, 57-58 (28-29 females) would end up recruiting into the population as adult breeders (remember that there are other older breading females producing pups in the population too), so 34% survival is ok.
  • Now look at the situation in 2005-10. Say 1000 pups were born in 2007. 140 (note 70 of these would be females) of these pups would survive to adulthood to breed. These 140 breeding adults would further produce at maybe 70 pups .  According to these numbers, of the 70 pups, 10 (5 females) would end up recruiting into the population as breeders. 5??

George Clement said it above…

this population is in decline.” … ““As alarming as these numbers are, the real situation could yet prove to be worse because we have already lost many of the sea lions which would now be breeding.” …

Interventions are urgently needed that will prevent this disease from reducing the population further. Klebsiella infections in humans can be treated with antibiotics, so a way has to be found to prevent the young sea lions dying before they leave for sea.”

Lets get in there and do something. Let’s do more than watch and monitor… Lets intervene!

What would work?

    • A drenching programme?
    • An inoculation programme that provides protection against Klebsiella pneumonia.

It can’t be that difficult. We do it with other animals all the time on a daily basis. Wouldn’t consultation with a vet with an expertise in pinniped epidemiology would be a good start? Even a team of vets?

If we do nothing the decline will continue. And before we know it.

We will be looking at a handful of breeding pairs struggling to keep this endemic species in existence.

New Zealand Sea Lions (Photo: Phombo) Source: http://subantarcticscience.wordpress.com/author/kimberleycollins/

New Zealand Sea Lions (Photo: Phombo)
Source: http://subantarcticscience.wordpress.com/author/kimberleycollins/

New Zealand Sea Lion Information

For more information see the Department of Conservation (DOC) website:

New Zealand sea lions are only found in New Zealand. They are one of the rarest species of sea lion in the world and arguably the most threatened because of their declining numbers and restricted breeding range.

Sea lions are found mainly on beaches in Otago and Southland areas and New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. New Zealand sea lions are generally quite confident around people and dogs so it is important to keep at least 10 metres from them.

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Maui’s Dolphins: Rather than pointing fingers, let’s negotiate the polemic and point the way forward

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I been following the Plight of the New Zealand Maui’s dolphin here at GfBf:

Background

According to the Department of Conservation (DOC):

Maui’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui)[is the world’s smallest dolphin and is found only on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand and nowhere else in the world. It is New Zealand’s rarest dolphin […] with a DOC-commissioned 2012 study estimated the Maui’s dolphin population to consist of 55 with a 95% confidence interval of between 48 to 69.”

For some the jury is still out on whether Maui’s dolphins constitutes a new species, a sub-species, or simply an extant population isolated from the other more common South Island Hector’s dolphins. For others that distinction is irrelevant.

In short the Maui’s dolphin is on the precipice of extinction. And worse still, in a country that prides itself on its effective, pro-active and precautionary environmental management.  Somehow the Maui’s dolphin has fallen through the cracks, and now it has got to the point that if something is not done… New Zealand will face the unthinkable…

Yet in this climate of catastrophe a maelstrom of accusations, finger pointing and emotive tit for tat is blocking any progress:

  • Cetacean scientists are blaming the fishermen who they say are 95% responsible for the decline;
  • The Government is concerned with the fusing of scientific evidence and eNGO advocacy and the lack of objective science;
  • The Media is publicly trying Taranaki fishermen and making claims that the Government is not doing enough;
  • The Government is countering with spatial closures of virtually the entire West Coast of the North Island; & lastly
  • The Fishermen who are wearing it all are claiming that they do not catch Maui’s dolphins and that the measures imposed by the Government are unduly arduous.

What a Cacophony!

In earlier pasts we have had a hard look at the science, have looked at the nature and extent of the interactions between Maui’s dolphins and fishing vessels and have looked at the records of Maui’s dolphin mortalities. None of this analysis has provided any clarity… Not really, all that it has really done is increased opacity and provided additional uncertainty to fuel debate.

There simply is no time for that, is there?

  • Sure Fishermen can wear some blame. They have interacted with dolphins, very occasionally. Unfortunately, risk is irreversibly linked to potential adverse outcomes… and the potential adverse outcome of one or two Maui’s dolphin mortalities in a population of 55 is very significant;
  • Sure the quality of the science is poor, and most of the scientific and technical personnel who should be providing objective advice to Government and Marine Managers are in bed with eNGOs advocating an end to fishing, marine mammal sanctuaries that comprise most of New Zealand’s coastal waters and other management measures;
  • Sure the Media’s coverage which is anti-fishermen, anti-Government and pro- scientific advocacy has skewed the debate and lead to national outrage and outpourings of emotion, this leads to more interest, and sells more papers;
  • Sure politicians are using the Maui’s debate to score political points, and the Government (which has the ability to impose a plethora of interventions) has instead dragged their feet, limiting management responses to spatial closures. This approach has had no effect on the population decline and has had a monumental adverse impact of the West Coast North Island Seafood Industry.

THIS FIASCO has created a culture of mistrust, which is the opposite of what is needed.

To save the Maui’s dolphin, we all need to sing from the same song sheet. We need to put aside egos, the point scoring. We have to stop saying “I am right way and your arewrong!”. We need to leave the science to the scientists, and the management to the managers. Personalities and perceptions of expertise have to be seen in context, and considered irrelevant outside that context … If Maui’s are to have a chance we have to do all of that and more.

Most of all we need to act … In unison

Hector’s dolphins have a unique rounded dorsal fin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The solution is clear!

I hate to be one of those people who rely on movies to provide relevant epistemology, but in my search to provide rationale for my belief that there must be a solution to the Maui’s dolphin cacophony, I seem to be unable to shake the image of the Merovingian on the Matrix Reloaded (2003) extolling his ‘one constant’ that there is:

“…One universal. It is the only real truth. Causality. Action, reaction. Cause and effect.”

But he may be right. If there is a problem there must be a solution.

A very well respected person from the Seafood Industry sent me a three pronged solution (below) that really must be shared. It is so simple, yet I am not surprised that such an ease of solution was overlooked, given the present status of the Maui’s dolphin fiasco:

  1. Get in there and intervene as soon as possible, and remove some animals from the wild for breeding
  2. Collaborate and objectively assess situation to find drivers of the decline and their solutions
  3. Negotiate the polemic… and meet the real objective which is to save the dolphins

1) Intervention

Maui’s dolphins are in trouble and the New Zealand Government is not doing enough to halt the trajectory towards their extinction.  Removing every fishing boat from the vicinity of Maui’s dolphin habitat will not halt the decline. It is past that now. It is time for intervention.

The plight of the Maui’s Dolphin is now no different from that of the Chatham Islands Black Robin (Petroica traversi), the American Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) & Koala (Phascolarctos cinereu), which were all at one time also on the brink of extinction. For example the Californian Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) which had became extinct in the wild in 1987 had a population of just 22 individuals. It is estimated that there are now around 450 birds. So just as active intervention saved the black robin and the Californian condor from extinction, intervention is needed to save the Maui’s dolphin Just like what was done for the black robin and the kakapo (Strigops habroptila), some Maui’s dolphins need to be removed from the wild and breed to increase numbers (setting  aside genetic material for future should also be undertaken).

The Seafood Industry could lead this. After all the New Zealand Seafood industry has no shortage of innovative individuals who have the ‘get up and go’ that is needed to implement such an innovative initiative.

Maybe I am overly and naively optimistic… but I honestly believe that the New Zealand public and maybe even the Government (once they realise they are on a winner) would get in behind such a Seafood Industry lead initiative. The New Zealand public are good at getting behind good causes. Look at Peter Blake’s Red Socks (and he wasn’t saving a threatened species).

2) Find drivers behind the decline and the solutions

Despite what rhetoric is sold by the media, (risk aside) increased fishery observation, and mandatory reporting have demonstrated that fishing attributed mortalities are not the main threat to Maui’s dolphins, nor is fishing the primary threat to Maui’s survival. This much is clear.

So what is the main driver behind the decline? Is it environmental degradation of coastal waters? changes in the availability of their diet? disease? No-one knows for certain.

We need to get to the bottom of it.

We need to undertake an objective and independent expert review to establish the risks to the Maui’s dolphin population and to propose solutions.

The Government should drive this. They should cast the net as widely as they can, and seek expertise from wherever it can be found.  They should engage with interested parties from all corners of New Zealand, and seek international expertise.

3) Negotiate the polemic

For any assessment of the plight of Maui’s dolphins to be effective, it has to be based on the best available scientific/technical information. Assessment needs to be driven on facts and not emotion.

In order to make any progress and meet the undisputed objective (which is to save the dolphins) we need to assert interests and not positions.

Is pointing scoring, punishing, blaming and finger pointing meeting our objective, and saving the dolphins. You’d think with the amount of it going on that it is.

My last word is this…. Save the Dolphins

South Koreans push back on Accusation that the Korean IUU Fishing Korean Fleet is essentially Government Subsidised

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Atuna reported  that the South Korean government, Dongwon Industries, and other tuna fisheries companies are under fire for failing to take pre-emptive steps to prevent the European Union (EU) preliminary listing of Korea as a country engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF) (see Gov’t Subsidized IUU Fishing By Korean Fleet?). On 26 November 2013, the European Commission handed South Korea a formal warning for failure to keep up with its international obligation to fight IUUF (see GFBF post: J’accuse!! eNGOs point finger pointed squarely at South Korea as the main IUU tuna fishing nation in African waters on the back of EU accusations).

IUU Fishing vessel from Gabon. Photo by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Source: http://denstormerpresents.com/2013/01/16/top-10-countries-involved-in-illegal-unreported-and-unregulated-fishing/

IUU Fishing vessel from Gabon. Photo by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Source: http://denstormerpresents.com/2013/01/16/top-10-countries-involved-in-illegal-unreported-and-unregulated-fishing/

Though the preliminary listing by the EU will not, at this stage, entail any measures affecting seafood trade, if Korea is designated as a full IUU fishing nation, all fish and fish products caught or manufactured by Korean fleets and their owner companies will be precluded from entering the EU market.

According to Atuna this warning came as a “shock to Korea, which prides itself as being a fishing powerhouse with 344 registered vessels in 2012.” Yet the article implies that this shock cannot be all that ‘unexpected’, noting that since 2010:

[T]he E.U. urged the Korean government to actively engage in stopping illegal fishing, after a number of international environmental organizations disclosed fishing illegalities by Korean ships. Rumors that the E.U. could issue a warning to the country were common place.”

The South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries claimed that it was talking with the E.U. and Korea would not likely face any penalties. I wrote earlier in this blog that in furtherance of this; South Korea amended their Water Fisheries Act:

For South Korea the possibility of being blacklisted by the EU is not only embarrassing; it could have real economic impact. Atuna points out, that in July (2013), the Korean National Assembly amended its Water Fisheries Act to help curb illegal fishing. One of the amendments includes an increase in penalties for illegal fishing from a fine of USD 5,000, to a significant maximum fine of three times the value of the fish caught.”

But According to Atuna the EU reportedly did not accept the legislative amendment, maintaining that “the revision lacks control over IUUF.”

In the face of the ‘shock’ as a consequence of being stigmatized as an IUUF nation, the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, in addition to the legislative amendment, instead of fortifying compliance measures, recently suspended the introduction of a compulsory Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), which tracks a fishing vessel’s whereabouts, until July next year. Interestingly China has already made VMS compulsory. It is said that this suspension of compulsory VMS is one of the justifications for the preliminary IUU blacklisting.

The Korean Ministry claimed that enforcing the system which will cost millions of won for each vessel could be a financial burden to companies. However Atuna notes that according to a fishing industry insider, who asked for anonymity, it may be burdensome for some small companies, but it was not a big deal for large companies such as Dongwon, Korea’s largest canned tuna provider.

South Korea’s fishing industry receives yearly a high amount of government subsidies, of which also tuna fishing companies are profiting, some of them directly or indirectly being associated with IUU fishing. Park Ji Hyun of Greenpeace added that “large companies (like Dongwon and Sajo Industries) take about 80 percent of the ministry’s subsidies to the fishing industry amounting to 300 billion won a year.”

FV Oyang 70-fishing-boat

South Korean Fishing Vessel. FV Oyang 70

Korea criticizes EU IUU ‘double standard’

According to Seafood Source the EU is facing a backlash from Korean fishermen’s organizations over its 26 November decision to preliminarily add the country to its illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF) list. The Korea Overseas Fisheries Association (KOFA), a group of operators of fishing vessels in international waters, claimed the EU applied a double standard when blacklisting countries.

Yi Whan-woo wrote in the Korea Times that KOFA is criticising the EU for its silence with respect to China, and acknowledged the potential for the EU decision to be at least partly bases on a premise that Korean fishing boats compete with Spanish ones in seas off West Africa.

The association criticized the E.U. for keeping mum about China, saying its decision came partly because Korean fishing boats compete with Spanish ones in seas off West Africa.

According to a spokesperson from KOFA (on condition of anonymity in a telephone interview with The Korea Times):

The EU’s measure is rational at all, although its true we have performed IUUF activities […]

Chinese fishing boats have also been engaged in a number of IUUF activities but the EU is taking a lenient attitude […]

The Ministry (Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries) has been making efforts to cope with the unions requirements, and it is inappropriate to blacklist a country without giving it sufficient time to meet the demands.

According to the South Korean Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries, the EU has been demanding Korea equip its distant water fishing fleet with VMS, since 2010. It has also asked Seoul to set up a fisheries monitoring center (FMC) that oversees activities of vessels equipped with VMS through a satellite network.

A revised EU regulation requires all distant water fishing vessels operating on the high seas who are selling product entering the EU, must be equipped with a VMS commencing July 2014 The Korean National Assembly approved a bill in July 2013 to require the Ministry and Korean fishing boats to respectively set up an FMC and install VMS by mid-2014.

It would seem that South Korea may end up complying with EU regulations, and will overcome their preliminary black listing. They must. As I said above “for South Korea the possibility of being blacklisted by the EU is not only embarrassing; it could have real economic impact..“

J’accuse!! eNGOs point finger pointed squarely at South Korea as the main IUU tuna fishing nation in African waters on the back of EU accusations

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The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) annual meeting, in Cape Town, South Africa was the event that prompted Pew branding South Korea Seen as the main IUU tune fishing nation In African waters [Atuna 20 Nov 2013]. This IUU fishing costs the continent millions of dollars a year. Activist and environmental organizations are calling for new measure to prevent illegal fishing activities.

These accusations follow a a series of illegal fishing occurrences off West Africa, which involved Dongwon owned or operated vessels. Dongwon is South Korea’s largest tuna fishing company and owns US tuna brand StarKist. A swell as vessels from other South Korean companies like Seokyung Corp

Elizabeth Wilson of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ environmental wing commented that:

The worldwide value of illegal fishing was estimated between USD 10 billion and USD 23.5 billion in a 2012 report on illegal fishing off Africa by the Environmental Justice Foundation …There are indications that South Korean companies were among the major offenders involved in illegal fishing in African waters… This illegal fishing is a real problem. It’s definitely something that countries are starting to take more seriously and it’s something that we are hoping ICCAT will be looking at.”

What do Pew Propose?

    • Permanent Vessel Identification: Pew is calling on the ICCAT meeting to require that all vessels have to carry a permanent identification so that boats cannot change names or flags in order to avoid punishment of illegal fishing operations.
    • Catch Documentation Scheme (CDS): Pew is calling on the commission to implement an electronic catch documentation system that digitally records each tuna that is caught. The system is due for implementation in March, but according to Wilson, some states are pressing to move the deadline back.

These proposals come on the back of an issuance of a formal warning ‘yellow card’ to South Korea by the European Union (EU) if it fails to keep up with international obligations to fight illegal fishing (see Atuna [27 Nov 2013]  South Korea Risks IUU status in the EU). According to European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki:

These decisions show our steadfast commitment to tackling illegal fishing. The EU market is negatively affected as are local and EU fishermen. We continue to put pressure on the countries which are fueling the supply chain of illegal fishing be it as a coastal state, flag state, or flag of convenience. West Africa was identified as a major source of illegal fishing and my intention is now take the same thorough approach in the Pacific.”

Atuna notes that currently states such as Belize, Cambodia and Guinea are facing pending sanctions which will prohibit the export of fish products to the EU. This ‘formal warning’ provides South Korea, (along with Ghana and Curaçao) with notice that this could be a potential fate for its country as well.

The ‘concrete failings’ by South Korea prompting the issuance of the formal warning included the lack of actions to address deficiencies in monitoring, controlling and surveillance of fisheries. The EU suggested that South Korea implement corrective actions to resolve its shortcomings.

A chase at sea near South Korea: an entire fleet of illegal Chinese fishing vessels attempts to evade the South Korean Coast Guard. The fishermen were arrested by armed units soon afterwards. [ Source: http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-2/fisheries/illegal-fishing/ © Dong-A Ilbo/AFP ImageForum/Getty Images]

A chase at sea near South Korea: an entire fleet of illegal Chinese fishing vessels attempts to evade the South Korean Coast Guard. The fishermen were arrested by armed units soon afterwards. [ Source: http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-2/fisheries/illegal-fishing/ © Dong-A Ilbo/AFP ImageForum/Getty Images]

Transshipment is typical of IUU fishing. As seen here off the coast of Indonesia, smaller fishing vessels transfer their illegally caught fish onto larger refrigerated transport ships (reefers). The fishing vessels are restocked with fuel and supplies at the same time, enabling them to remain at sea for many months. [Source: http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-2/fisheries/illegal-fishing/ © Alex Hafford/AFP ImageForum/Getty Images]

Transshipment is typical of IUU fishing. As seen here off the coast of Indonesia, smaller fishing vessels transfer their illegally caught fish onto larger refrigerated transport ships (reefers). The fishing vessels are restocked with fuel and supplies at the same time, enabling them to remain at sea for many months. [Source: http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-2/fisheries/illegal-fishing/ © Alex Hafford/AFP ImageForum/Getty Images]

For South Korea the possibility of being blacklisted by the EU is not only embarrassing; it could have real economic impact. Atuna points out, that in July (2013), the Korean National Assembly amended its Water Fisheries Act to help curb illegal fishing. One of the amendments includes an increase in penalties for illegal fishing from a fine of USD 5,000, to a significant maximum fine of three times the value of the fish caught.

Study Shows that Illegal Unrported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing nets Billions Of Dollars Per Year

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Environment Correspondent Deborah Zabarenko writes in Scientific American (8 May 2013) that Fish Piracy Costs Up to $23 Billion a Year. Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) Fishing or (Fish piracy as its called in this article) – is seafood caught that is illegally, not reported to authorities or outside environmental and catch regulations – represents as much as $10 billion to $23 billion in global losses each year, OCEANA (a non-profit conservation group) estimated Wednesday.

“Because pirated fish is sold on black markets, specifics of the economic impact are tough to decipher. But Oceana, a Washington-based organization, looked at the records of fish catches by country as reported to the United Nations, and then compared those statistics to seafood sales in various world markets. When these numbers didn’t match up, the group estimated the amount lost through fish piracy, a practice that U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator Jane Lubchenco has called “one of the most serious threats to American fishing jobs and fishing communities.”

The report said illegal trade could account for 11 million to 25 million metric tons of seafood, a minimum of 20 percent of seafood worldwide. Illegal fishing targets some of the most expensive species, including shrimp, fugu pufferfish, lobster, whole abalone and sea urchin uni. Penalties are often a fraction of potential profit, the report found. In one U.S. case, an illegal catch worth up to USD 1 million brought a USD 3,500 penalty.

The report estimated that illegal trade threatens 260 million jobs dependant on marine fisheries. For example, the shark fin trade in Hong Kong suggests that three to four times more sharks are being killed than official reports say, with USD 292 million to USD 476 worth of shark fins sold. Oceana said that Florida law enforcement agents’ estimates showed that one illegal operator stole USD 1,400 a week from legal operators by exceeding the catch limit on king mackerel.

Fishermen who comply with legal standards can also lose business when they sell in the same market as illegal operators who don’t follow environmental or sanitary standards, the report found.

In addition, adults and children have been trafficked into service on illegal fishing ships, making a catch more lucrative, the report said. Annual black market sales of bluefin tuna may reach USD 4 billion, with the amount of illegally caught fish five to 10 times higher than the official catch, according to Oceana.”

IUU Fishing vessel from Gabon. Photo by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Source: http://denstormerpresents.com/2013/01/16/top-10-countries-involved-in-illegal-unreported-and-unregulated-fishing/

IUU Fishing vessel from Gabon. Photo by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Source: http://denstormerpresents.com/2013/01/16/top-10-countries-involved-in-illegal-unreported-and-unregulated-fishing/

Stealing Fish

According to the Scientific American article:

“Illegally caught Russian sockeye salmon is estimated to be 60 percent to 90 percent above reported levels, a loss of $40 million to $74 million, according to Oceana. Annual black market sales of bluefin tuna may reach $4 billion, with the amount of illegally caught fish five to 10 times higher than the official catch, the report said.

“I don’t think people think of fish as valuable, and when they think of crime, I don’t think they think about seafood,” Oceana senior scientist Margot Stiles said in a telephone interview. “But behind closed doors and out at sea, there’s all this money made by stealing fish.”

In the past, governments have stepped up enforcement to combat the problem, but that approach was limited. Stiles suggested a two-part solution: first, cut back government fishing subsidies, which ultimately pay for some of the illegal catch, and increase seafood tracking from its source to the consumer.

Using the same technology as in the package delivery industry, some large seafood dealers, markets and restaurants are already tracking fish. MJ Gimbar, chief fishmonger at Black Salt Fish Market in Washington, said his company’s program is inexpensive to implement and offers customers assurances about what they are buying: “It allows them to put a face with the fish.”

The market’s website offers species-specific information on the sources of its seafood [click here to access the black restaurant group website]. Oceana reported in February that one-third of seafood tested in the United States was mislabeled, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines.”

IUU Fishing

To access Oceana’s full report, please click here (Stolen Seafood: The impact of pirate fishing on our oceans).

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released its 2013 Biennial Report to Congress on International Fishing Activities. There report can be obtained here. The National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA’s fisheries arm, identified 10 countries with: (1) fishing vessels engaged in illegal unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in 2011 or 2012, or (2) ineffective measures to prevent the unintended catch of protected species in 2012.

An FAO report addresses a number of questions with respect to Fishing capacity management and IUU fishing in the Asia-Pacific Region:

  • What are the greatest IUU fishing issues reported by member countries?
  • Where are vessels of the region that are engaged in foreign fishing operating?
  • Do countries of the region control IUU fishing in other countries or on the high seas by their nationals?
  • To what extent have national plans of action been developed to address IUU fishing?

According to the FAO Report:

“The Asian region accounts for about 50 percent of global wild capture fisheries production and about 90 percent of aquaculture production. The sustainable management of these fisheries resources, therefore, is an activity of global importance as well as being critical to countries of the region. However, the history of exploitation of wild fish stocks of the region has been one of sequential overexploitation, open access fisheries and low profitability. Despite this history, there has been a growing recognition in recent years of the need to manage fish stocks for long-term sustainability. This regional synthesis summarizes information, based on responses to questionnaires sent to 15 countries of the region and previously available information, on the current status of the management of fishing capacity and how countries of the region are addressing illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing by both national and foreign fleets.”

The FAO highlighted:

“A lack of policy and operational tools in the region was highlighted by many countries, with only 50 percent of the major fisheries having management plans. Methods for measuring fishing capacity, such as vessel licensing systems or census data, and catch and effort data systems are often being poorly developed and monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) capabilities generally inadequate. IUU remains a major issue to be addressed although the recent Asia-Pacific Fisheries Commission (APFIC) “call for action” and the Regional Plan of Action for Responsible Fisheries, signed by 11 countries, may provide a template for regional action and coordination on this.”

The Risk to Maui’s Dolphins apportioned to West Coast North Island Fishermen, while Coastal Marine Mining Companies continue Onward!

cropped-yellow-fin-tuna-school3.jpg

In a recent blog post (Maui’s Dolphins: Swimming in a sea of all sorts of mischief?) I provided a discussion of the present Maui’s Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui) saga. Which according to the Department of Conservation (DOC):

“[…] is the world’s smallest dolphin and is found only on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand and nowhere else in the world. It is New Zealand’s rarest dolphin […] with a DOC-commissioned 2012 study estimated the Maui’s dolphin population to consist of 55 with a 95% confidence interval of between 48 to 69.”

I provided an overview of the controversial science or lack thereof, the political point scoring and the general misrepresentation that has seen a genuine conservation issue, turn into one of of full blown emotive advocacy. This post argued that in the absence of robust objective science a fall back default position of fishermen culpability has been spear headed by eNGOs, the media and a number of politicians is dogmatic making ground:

[…] the drivers behind the population decline are still not known. Consequently marine scientists, eNGOs and the media have fallen back on their usual default driver – the Fishing Industry… in particularly set nets and inshore trawls.

This established default position has given birth to a one-dimensional strategy to ‘sort out’ the decline – to bar fishermen from fishing the habitat area of the dolphins with a regimen of spatial closures and fishing gear type bans… Unfortunately with a proposed cure already in place, the plight of the dolphins departed from what could have been a collaboration of parties towards a single goal of maui dolphin preservation, to one increasingly characterised by advocacy based science, political point scoring, lobbying and the passing of culpability.”

This default position has lead to the imposition of a number of protective measures being implemented by the Government. I refer to a Management fact sheet produced by the Ministry for Primary Industries:

“For Maui dolphins, there are now a range of fishing and other restrictions that extend across the entire area where they are most commonly found. The best-available information based on sightings indicates the areas where Maui are most commonly found occur within seven nautical miles from shore.  For Hector’s dolphins, the areas that pose the greatest risk to the Hector’s population are also covered by various fishing bans and restrictions. Combined, the area covered by restrictions on set netting (the fishing method known to pose the greatest risk), have increased by more than 600 percent between 2003 and 2012. Almost 15,000 square kilometres of the coastal environment is closed to set net activity.

In 2012, after a Hector’s or Maui dolphin mortality resulting from set net activity was reported in an area outside of the closures implemented by the Government, a closure out to two nautical miles offshore was put in place. DOC has also implemented five marine mammal sanctuaries surrounding key dolphin habitats.”

Map indicating the nature and extent of the interim measures in place for the purpose of protecting Maui's dolphins https://zen.nzherald.../03112MAUI1.pdf

Map indicating the nature and extent of the interim measures in place for the purpose of protecting Maui’s dolphins
https://zen.nzherald…/03112MAUI1.pdf

However to most these extensive measures are not enough. Marine scientists and eNGOs who without objective evidence, want fishing restrictions extended more (some like Slooten and eNGO’s like Forest and Bird, want it extended to the 100m contour). According to Dr. Liz Slooten (Associate Professor of Zoology at Otago University) an extension out to the 100m contour would then also provide and protect dolphin “corridors” where North Island Maui’s populations can travel south and mix with their southern cousins, and vice verser!

Distribution of Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins [which includes 'corridoes' that allow for Maui's to move south to mix with Southern Hector's Populations????] Source: http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/campaigns/mauis-and-hectors-dolphins/hectors-dolphins-distribution

Distribution of Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins [which includes ‘corridoes’ that allow for Maui’s to move south to mix with Southern Hector’s Populations????]
Source: http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/campaigns/mauis-and-hectors-dolphins/hectors-dolphins-distribution

The trouble is there is absolutely no evidence of Maui’s dolphins inhabiting areas in the deeper ‘oceanic’ areas in the vicinity of the 100m contour, there is no evidence of the existence of Hector/Maui Dolphin migration corridors exist. Furthermore it is scientifically accepted that the the two populations exist as seperate sub-species primarily because they they have not mixed for thousands of years!!!  What is Slooten advocating here?

This is the quality of the science that is driving this maui-dolphin soap opera. I am still wed to the position that if we cannot attack this conundrum objectively and accurately… The North Island Hector’s Dolphin (Maui’s Dolphin) will disappear.

Fishermen Culpability???

As I have explained above, the spatial closures have all but resigned the West Coast North Island seafood industry to the history books. New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen President Doug Saunders-Loder echoed this:

“The proposal to extend the set-net ban along the Taranaki coast while undertaking a review of Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins is a knee jerk reaction that does not consider the full picture. [We]want careful and successful management of this endangered species. However, this proposal puts the blame at the fishermen’s door and ignores all the other known factors including disease, pollution and predators such as sharks and orcas.”

With all the ‘j’accusory’ declarations focussed of the West Coast North Island seafood industry, I nearly fell off my chair when I was sent the link to a website the advocates for cessation of iron sand mining on West Coast North Island beaches the other day (http://kasm.org.nz/)

This website (Kiwis Against Seabed Mining) provides a map that shows the currently registered prospecting and exploration permits, as well as the continental shelf licences in New Zealand’s West Coast North Island marine environment.

map that shows the currently registered prospecting and exploration permits, as well as the continental shelf licences in New Zealand’s West Coast North Island marine environment. Source: http://kasm.org.nz/permits/permit-map/

Map illustrating currently registered prospecting and exploration permits, as well as the continental shelf licences in New Zealand’s West Coast North Island marine environment.
Source: http://kasm.org.nz/permits/permit-map/

When you compare this map that shows the currently registered prospecting and exploration permits, and the ones above show Maui dolphin habitats, and areas of fishing restrictions… The overlap is unmistakeable!

Hector's dolphins have a unique rounded dorsal...

Hector’s dolphins have a unique rounded dorsal fin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)