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EU nations back illegal fishing in Africa

Rob Fletcher
Rob Fletcher
12 September 2017, at 2:30pm

Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain have authorized fishing vessels to engage in illegal fishing in West African waters, according to a report released today by Oceana.

The new report highlights unlawful fishing activities by vessels flagged to the four EU states, in the waters of The Gambia and Equatorial Guinea between April 2012 and August 2015. Using data from Global Fishing Watch, an online technology tool that provides the first global view of commercial fishing activity, Oceana allege that the four nations awarded private fishing authorizations, which granted individual vessels access to these waters in contravention of EU law.

Oceana’s findings show that even vessels from countries with strong legal frameworks, such as those within the EU, can engage in unlawful practices. We are happy that the EU has just passed a new regulation that will help ensure the transparency of all fishing activities outside EU waters, and which calls on the rest of the world’s flag States to follow suit, and to pass laws and control measures to ensure that the fishing activities of their fleet are sustainable and transparent,” said María José Cornax, senior policy and advocacy director at Oceana in Europe.

EU countries cannot legally issue permits for their vessels to fish in the waters of nations with dormant fishing agreements, for example with The Gambia and Equatorial Guinea. With the help of Global Fishing Watch.

Oceana’s analysis reveals that 18 EU-flagged vessels from Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain fished in the waters of The Gambia for 31,706 hours and one EU-flagged vessel from Spain fished in the waters of Equatorial Guinea for 170 hours, during that period.

“With the help of technologies like Global Fishing Watch, we can now see what’s happening beyond the horizon,” said Beth Lowell, senior campaign director for illegal fishing and seafood fraud at Oceana. “Countries can also play their part in increasing transparency at sea by requiring vessel tracking for all fishing vessels and making all fishing agreements public.”

In June 2017, the EU agreed on a new regulation governing the activities of the EU’s fishing fleet outside of its waters. The reformed law requires equal oversight of fishing vessels, regardless of where they operate or under what type of agreement. When fully implemented, Oceana believes, the new law will significantly improve the oversight of the EU’s external fishing fleet and ensure the continued leadership of the EU in matters of global fisheries governance.