New Zealand the 9th State to ratify the FAO Port State Measures Agreement


New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy today announced that the New Zealand Government has ratified the 2009 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing; an agreement designed to fight illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

The objective (Article 2) of the PSM Agreement is to:

Prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing through the implementation of effective port State measures, and thereby to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources and marine ecosystems.”

To view the a PDF of the PSM Agreement click this hyperlink.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO):

The Agreement envisages that parties, in their capacities as port States, will apply the Agreement in an effective manner to foreign vessels when seeking entry to ports or while they are in port. The application of the measures set out in the Agreement will, inter alia, contribute to harmonized port State measures, enhanced regional and international cooperation and block the flow of IUU-caught fish into national and international markets. The Agreement will enter into force 30 days after the deposit of the 25th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. The Agreement is binding and stipulates minimum port States measures. However, countries are free to adopt more stringent measures than those outlined in the Agreement.”

New Zealand is the ninth country to ratify the  Port State Measures (PSM) Agreement, which requires 25 ratifications to come into force. So far only eight other states that ratified the PSM Agreement. These States are:

      • Myanmar – (November 22, 2010)
      • Sri Lanka – (January 20, 2011)
      • European Union – (July 7, 2011)
      • Norway – (July 20, 2011)
      • Chile – (August 28, 2012)
      • Uruguay – (February 28, 2013)
      • Seychelles –  (June 19, 2013)
      • Oman – (August 1, 2013)
      • Gabon – (November 15, 2013)

The FAO’s PSM Agreement sets minimum standards for port access by foreign flagged fishing vessels and related support vessels. Adopted in 2009 by the U.N. FAO, the treaty requires parties to exert greater port controls on foreign-flagged vessels, and as a result to keep IUU fish out of the world’s markets by removing incentives for the practice of IUU fishing to continue.

According to a press release by the New Zealand Government, Murray McCully (New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs) said that:

Widespread implementation of the agreement would make it more difficult and less economic to undertake illegal fishing… It would mean New Zealand fishers could operate in high-value international fisheries with less threat of illegal fishers, while ensuring sustainability of the oceans…. 

New Zealand has been at the forefront of international efforts to combat IUU fishing. Ratifying this agreement further cements our commitment.”

Nathan Guy (New Zealand Minister for Primary Industries) said that:

“For New Zealand, it [ the ratification of the PSM Agreement] will mean our fishers can operate in high value international fisheries with less threat of IUU fishers, while ensuring sustainability of our oceans…

Supporting an international framework that enables long-term sustainable use of fisheries resources is important for New Zealand.”

Essentially as the New Zealand Herald so aptly put it,

The Government has signed up to an international fisheries agreement which could [enable it to] block illegal fishers from using New Zealand ports.”

A chase at sea near South Korea: an entire fleet of illegal Chinese fishing vessels attempts to evade the South Korean Coast Guard. Source: World Ocean Review (

A chase at sea near South Korea: an entire fleet of illegal Chinese fishing vessels attempts to evade the South Korean Coast Guard.
Source: World Ocean Review (


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


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:

IUU Fishing vessel from Gabon. Photo by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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

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: © 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: © 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: © 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: © 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


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:

IUU Fishing vessel from Gabon. Photo by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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.”

IUU Fishing: “J’accuse!” – China Accused Of Grossly Underreporting Its Catches


China has been accused of partaking in Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by significantly under-reporting catches.

An article by Christopher Pala that Appears in Both Nature and Scientific American reports under-reported overfishing and excessive catches by Chinese vessels:

According to The Vancouver Sun:

China is grossly under-reporting its harvest of fish outside its territorial waters, a University of B.C.-led study suggests.

The study, published in the journal Fish and Fisheries, estimates the Chinese foreign fleet catches 12 times more than reported to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, an international agency that keeps track of global fisheries catches.

Catch levels are critical when determining sustainable catch limits and are an important indicator of the state of the ocean. The catch is estimated at $11.5 billion US or 4.6 million tonnes per year.

China Asia Typhoon

Haikou, China — A boat sails past docked ships at a port in Haikou, in south China’s Hainan province
(see: LA Times. The Week in Pictures | Oct. 18-24, 2010 | Photo Associated Press )

Pala writes:

Fisheries experts have long suspected that the catches reported by China to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome are too low.From 2000 to 2011, the country reported an average overseas catch of 368,000 tons a year. Yet China claims to have the world’s biggest distant-water fishing fleet, implying a much larger haul, says the study, which was funded by the European Union (EU).”

Daniel Pauly (fisheries scientist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, who led the study) estimates that the average catch for 2000–11 was in fact 4.6 million tons a year, more than 12 times the reported figure (see ‘A colossal catch’). Of that total, 2.9 million tons a year came from West Africa, one of the world’s most productive fishing grounds.

The Vancouver Sun highlighted Daniel Pauly’s involvement in a study in 2001 that accused China of grossly misleading the United Nations for more than a decade about the state of its fisheries, effectively masking a steady decline in the world’s fish stocks.

According to Pauly

Chinese fishing vessels are taking a huge unreported global catch, fisheries researchers have found. Instead of an average 368,000 tons a year that China reported to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, its fleets hauled in as much as 4.6 million tons.”

This catch is taken from the waters of at least 90 countries, including 3.1 million tonnes from African waters, mainly West Africa. Pauly argues that this unreported catch is crippling the artisanal fisheries that help to feed West African populations.

He continues:

We need to know how many fish have been taken from the ocean in order to figure out what we can catch in the future […] Countries need to realize the importance of accurately recording and reporting their catches and step up to the plate, or there will be no fish left for our children. 

The problem is particularly acute in the rich fisheries of West Africa, where a lack of transparency in reporting is threatening efforts to evaluate the ecological health of the waters.

Local fishermen in West Africa are struggling with reduced catches.
Photo: Godong/ Robert Harding World Imagery/ Corbis

Pala quotes Didier Gascuel (from European University of Brittany in Rennes, France, and member of the scientific committee that advises Mauritania and the EU on fishing agreements):

So that’s where my fish were going! Year after year, Mauritanian populations of bottom-dwelling species such as octopus, grouper and sea bream have remained stubbornly low — a sign of over­fishing. We had no idea the Chinese catch was so big and of course we never included it our models

This tendency to be secretive was also acknowledged by Reg Watson & Daniel Pauly who in an article in the Journal of Fish and Fisheries (Coastal catch transects as a tool for studying global fisheries)

Chinese distant-water fisheries have become globally important economic actors. Unfortunately what did not improve in the transition to the 21st century … is the tendency towards secrecy in fisheries data.”

According to Scientific American:

The fishing contracts between Chinese companies and African nations are secret, so to estimate the catch […] The picture was further clouded because Chinese companies sometimes operate vessels flying local flags. So at least ten researchers combined clues from field interviews, scholarly articles and newspaper and online reports in 14 languages to estimate how many Chinese fishing vessels were operating in 93 countries and territories.

The group assembled their own database to calculate that China operated a far-seas fisheries fleet of at least 900 vessels to capture $11 billion worth of fish a year.

They found many in nations where China reported no catch. The estimates were averaged to reach their conclusion: China had at least 900 ocean-going vessels, with 345 in West Africa, including 256 bottom-trawlers.


The logo of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

According to Atuna:

The study also found that China was taking 198,000 tons of fish a year out of Oceania. This is much greater than its reported western Pacific catch, almost exclusively of tuna, of 105,000 tons in 2011. China has rapidly expanded into Pacific fisheries, with 241 China-flagged vessels approved to fish by the Forum Fisheries Agency.

According to Nature, the Pauly and colleagues’ report has been criticized by Richard Grainger, chief of the fisheries statistics and information service with the FAO, who knows the number of catches reported from China is too low but he still feels the figures in the UBC study are “highly unlikely:’’

The new estimates seem far, far too high2 estimated the total unreported catch in West Africa (by all nations) at 300,000–560,000 tonnes a year.” (see Agnew, D. J. et al. (2009) Estimating the Worldwide Extent of Illegal Fishing PLoS ONE 4)

But China’s director of International Co-operation at the Bureau of Fisheries, Xiaobing Liu, confirmed last year it took 1.15 million tons, three times the FAO figure, in a speech to the EU last June.

What do the Netizens think?

I have included for your information a few of the of comments from the page China has been under-reporting its fish catch since 2000. Actual overseas fish take estimated at 12x reported values. West African fisheries are most exploited:

(From Hammerschlagen)

“I work as a mate (deck/navigational officer) on container ships for a living. The Chinese fishing fleets are absofuckinglutely ridiculous. These fleets are massive. Hundreds… thousands of fishing boats as far as the eye can see. It looks like a city lit up at night for miles and miles. Imagine trying to navigate a 700 foot long ship through that mess doing 20+ kts (about 25 mph… pretty effing fast for a huge ship). Here are a few pictures I took of the radar screen and from our ECDIS (electronic chart/map). All the blips and green triangles pointed upward are fishing boats”.

(From Frankeh)

Just a reminder that China makes up just over 1/7th of the entire earths population. It’s hard not to ruin shit when that’s a statistic you’re the owner of.

(From blipped)

They are engaging in destructive behavior because of demand. Most of these are poor people trying to make a living. You would likely do the same if you were in their shoes. Now, if people like you and me and all the others in the western world that demand it were to say demand sustainably raised and responsibly harvested fish then they’d do that instead. We make the world with our purchases every day. You want change, start buying it and encouraging others to do the same.

(From Hammerschlagen)

From my observation, this seems to go on 24/7/365. Our ship pulled in to Chinese ports once every 35 days for about 4 months and the fishing traffic was this bad every, single, time. I don’t see how there can be any fish left to catch…

NTM that the conditions which these fishermen are subject to… Some of these junks are like mother ships which put out a smaller fleet of skiffs (2 man boats) with our without an outboard motor. So these guys will be drifting about fishing, most of the time, in inclement weather (relative to how small their skiff is). AND they are fishing within a major shipping lane. We came so close to one of these skiffs one time I went out on the bridge wing of my ship and looked down (we are about 70+ feet above the water) and these guys were maybe 20 feet off my starboard side. They looked up at me and held up this big fish and gave me a thumbs up. Maybe they have become so desensitized to almost being hit by huge ships it doesn’t even phase them anymore. The only reason I allowed my ship to steam so close to them in the first place is because there are a ton of other huge ships in close proximity and making erratic course changes to dodge these small skiffs would cause a risk of collision with another cargo ship. 

At last count there were 3095 comments… Worth a look for you who are interested…

Greenpeace: Saving tuna fisheries that don’t need saving?


I have been keeping up with the very public war between Greenpeace and Tuna of Tomorrow.

I mean look at this….

And this…

What are they warring over?

Favourable Public Perception is my answer…  

For a few years now Greenpeace have been actively campaigning against Tuna fishing globally, and recently have stepped up campaigns in the Pacific Ocean, with one recent one (which is one of the subjects of this Blog Post – called “Defending our Pacific“), and for  a number of years Tuna for Tomorrow have been actively against Greenpeace’s campaign against Tuna fishing on.

On the Tuna for Tomorrow website, this war with Greenpeace is characterised:

Tuna for Tomorrow is a campaign to combat misinformation about sustainable stocks of tuna fished by the America’s leading canned tuna brands. Radical environmental activists have for years distorted the true status of tuna stocks worldwide claiming overfishing of species that are not overfished in order to further their own goals.

According to a consensus of scientists, stocks of [tuna] are plentiful and being fished sustainably to ensure that future generations of families enjoy canned tuna too.

Unfortunately, despite all the scientifically driven data to the contrary, radical activists, like Greenpeace, are campaigning to save tuna that don’t need saving. Apparently motivated by their own budgeted obligations — which include a $32 million yacht and operating expenses running nearly $700,000 per day — we believe that Greenpeace has fabricated a crisis for fundraising purposes.

Among their tactics is a campaign to eliminate purse seine (or net) fishing that uses Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs); Greenpeace is compelling grocers to sell canned tuna from FAD-free sources or from pole and line fisheries. The presumed threat is a mobilized boycott and protest against retailers who don’t comply. Pole and line fishing, though fun for weekend anglers, is woefully inefficient when it comes to meeting the nutritional needs of a nation. Last year, Americans purchase 50 million cases of canned tuna. Pole and line could only supply 4 million cases worldwide.

If Greenpeace has its way, not only would canned tuna disappear from grocers’ shelves, the paltry supply that gets to market would cost a lot more. Aside from its great taste and all of its nutritional benefits, canned tuna is also affordable (at least for now). If supply shrinks and demand stays the same, millions of consumers will be denied — be it by choice or by cost.”

In addition to Tuna for Tomorrow’s media centred public relations campaign. Greenpeace have been running one of their own… Greenpeace’s anti-tuna campaign is arguable far more sophisticated, and far more successful…

Greenpeace’s Kangnam Style approach of a younger commited dynamic, attract a younger committed dynamic… something I imagine Tuna for Tomorrow will never be able to do.

I mean this video is current… and totally entertaining

Greenpeace, through their public relations machinery, have been able to publically portray their fighting of “the good fight.” One such example of Greenpeace’s ‘good fight’ were the recent 2012 Ocean Expeditions:

Yes I know…

These “expeditions” (9-week expedition through the Indian Ocean’s fishing grounds completed by the Rainbow Warrior; and a 3-week expedition in Pacific Commons Area 1 and the EEZ of Palau undertaken by the Esperanza) were seen as ‘fishing operations’ fact finding and IUU fishery spotting missions as far as Greenpeace were concerned… Yet from the Summary of Findings documents on the Greenpeace website… I deduce that they were little more than footage finding and fishing interruption expeditions…

Both expeditions assert that they documented fishing operations; you be the judge… Here are summaries of their findings [just click on the pictures for a copy of the PDF].

Greenpeace. Defending our pacific summary

Greenpeace. Indian Ocean

The mainstream media has swallowed the ‘good fight’ rhetoric hook, line and sinker.  They fully responsive to the Greenpeace PR machine… To the extent that public perceptions are shaped that much more with programmes produced by the eNGO or its partners being guaranteed the requisite airtime… to cement understanding of an issue from their point of view… This may not seem much… but public airtime is gold.

TVNZ aired Karli Thomas and The Raiders of The Last Tuna on 04 Dec 12 on TV ONE. As you can see it is still available on demand.

This video before features Karli Thomas (Greenpeace Ocean Campaigner), talking about her embarkation on her Defending the Pacific 2011 expedition.

Below is the summary of findings document – produced by Karli’s expedition….

Greenpeace. Defending our pacific

The findings include slaps on the hands for Taiwanese long liners and the use of FADs by purse seiners. Simply put there is nothing new in any of these documents. But that is their appeal; their brand strategy… A brand strategy of constant messaging, delivered with a media savvy that is the envy of any public relations organisation…

However the question remains are their messages true and accurate? Well that is the question. The answer according to Tuna for Tomorrow… NO! 

What is my view?… Well I think Greenpeace don’t allow themselves to be too troubled by truth and accuracy.


IUU Antarctic Toothfish: worth its weight in Gold and maybe even a little more!


Today I read this little tidbit in Todays media report from the Southland Times and found myself astouned (although not surprised). $1800? That is only 1,691,594.421 won! In Korean terms it is even less!

Southland Times. 19 Feb. 2012

The vessel, Insung No 7, which took 339% more than its limit of Antarctic toothfish was exposed in an official report in which nations including New Zealand, the European Union and the US demanded Seoul clean its act up in the wake of “many incidences” of non-compliance involving its flagged vessels. The vessel, Insung No 7, a sister ship to Insung No 1 which sank in the Southern Ocean in December 2010 with the loss of 22 men, is owned by one of Korea’s biggest fishing companies. In the recent Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting  Nations expressed:

great concern regarding the 339 percent over-catch, the intentional nature of the actions and concern that the monetary penalty imposed was insignificant in comparison to the value of the 35 tonnes of toothfish which Korea concluded had been taken illegally and was estimated by Members to be worth US$500 000.”

In addition CCAMLR noted on the record that:

This was one of many incidences of non-compliance by the Korean-flagged vessels in addition to the loss of life caused by the sinking of the Insung No. 1 and suggested Korea consider reviewing its domestic arrangements to provide for the imposition of more appropriate sanctions on those responsible for vessels flying Korean flag,” the commission decided.”

Ultimately, Insung 7 was not entered on the CCAMLR black list as an IUU vessel as CCAMLR decisions have to be reached by consensus. Korea was the only hold out (see

There are significant drivers in addition to the lack of enforcement jurisdiction by other fishing states and coastal states, against boats engaged in IUU fishing, one significant driver is that IUU fishing pays. The huge profit gained ($600K) gained here by the Korean vessel verses the minimal fine imposed by the Korean government is evidence that IUU fishing pays. I mean one large sushi-grade migrating trans-boundary fish like bluefin tuna can reach up to USD$300,000 on the Japanese market.  The economic gain from such transactions is such that it is often within a fisherman’s best interests [even that of a state] to engage in IUU fishing. This article is just evidence that IUU fishing pays.

I like the approach of this story – well the back story really – where those fishing vessels the fall short of what we (NZ, Austr. and other CCAMLR states) deem as un seaworthy could be subject to a Coastal/fishing state imposed penalty. This is a start! But what of vessels from distant water fishing nations (DWFNs) that are ‘ship shape‘ so to speak? The  problem is a complicated one. Although it‘s common knowledge that there are simply too many boatschasing too few fish, the problem of over-fishing the high seas is inextricably linked to many other factors; centred on a game of cat and mouse between Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and IUU fishermen, where the former has the functional jurisdiction to exercise governance over high Seas stocks, and the latter able to hide in holes in the International Law of the Sea.

RFMOs have overtime become the primary mechanism by which the high seas are regulated. This is no easy feat to try and govern in the absence of government. Even though RFMOs in accordance with UNCLOS have the functional jurisdiction to regulate high seas fisheries, they lack the hard jurisdiction by which to promote compliance with sustainable measures and regulations, obviate inconsistent flag state policies, or even enforce high seas fishing regulations in the face of flag states who thumb their noses at RFMO conservation measures. Even other states like New Zealand and Australia who wholly comply with RFMO measure by following international sustainability guidelines, directives and conservation measures prescribed by CCAMLR are powerless against those who don’t. Furthermore the job of the RFMOs (like CCAMLR) is made more challenging still by having been forced to rely on flag states to enforce compliance of vessels flying their flags on the high seas due to the principle of exclusive flag state jurisdiction. Which as we have seen here in the case of the Korean Government,  problematic. The fine of $1800 against $600K worth of fish is almost congratulatory.

Other DWFNs and coastal states are almost powerless when it comes to enforcing transgressions on the high seas (and yes the Ross Dependency EEZ is still the high seas… for now – Although New Zealand could entertain publicly proclaiming it subject to New Zealand national jurisdiction, like the Aussies have done – but this is another blog entry) because of the presence of lacunae in that high seas governance framework, that enables IUU fishing to continue.

Why are other fishing states and coastal states powerless? Here is the rub as I see it. It comes down to international legal ‘quid pro quo‘ and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Very simplistically put – in order for coastal states to have increased exclusive economic jurisdiction of the resources adjacent to their coastlines (the EEZ) those countries should guarantee the freedom of other states to free access to any resources beyond those exclusive economic resource zones (EEZ).  And that is what happened.

The first Big UNCLOS provision is:

The Principle of Freedom Fishing on the High Seas whereUNCLOS amongst other things including freedom of navigation, guarantees freedom to fish the High Seas to all States;
―Article 87 – Freedom of the high seas
1. The high seas are open to all States, whether coastal or land-locked. Freedom of the high seas is exercised under the conditions laid down by this Convention and by other rules of international law. It comprises, inter alia, both for coastal and land-locked States:
(e) freedom of fishing, subject to the conditions laid down in section 2; […]
2. These freedoms shall be exercised by all States with due regard for the interests of other States in their exercise of the freedom of the high seas, and also with due regard for the rights under this Convention with respect to activities in the Area.
This provision is unequivocal in it scope – and guarantees freedom to fish to all states ―whether coastal or land-locked.‖

Although a states right to fish on the high seas is guaranteed by UNCLOS, it must be pointed out that that right is not completely unfettered. Freedom to fish on the high seas is conditional on the other provisions laid down in the convention (which most importantly includes a duty to co-operate and conserve fish stocks).

The second Big UNCLOS provision is:

The Principle of Exclusive Flag State Jurisdiction on the High Seas
―Article 94 Exclusive Flag State Jurisdiction on the High Seas Every State shall effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag.‖

Furthermore this freedom is further buttressed by Article 91 of UNCLOS which states that “every state fix the conditions for the grant of its nationality to ships, for the registration of ships in its territory, and for the right to fly its flag“. So what can we do? We’ve all agreed on the rules!

Antarctic Toothfish is a lucrative species! Its big money. And because of this, IUU fishers are incentivised to non-comply. And even though we don’t have jurisdiction over other flagged vessels, that fish this exceedingly ugly fish, we do have jurisdiction over our ports and our markets, where toothfish may be landed. The upshot is we have control over one of the main drivers – $$$!  Except of course when the fish is landed in a flagged port – as is probably the case here, in Korea.