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Dongwon Tuna Seiner Connected To IUU South Korea, March 13, 13

According a Greenpeace press release South Korea's largest tuna brand, Dongwon Industries, is currently facing criminal charges in Africa for forging government documents as well as penalties for its illegal fishing activities in African waters. In response, Greenpeace is now calling on the South Korean government to call the company home, investigate the ship’s activities and prosecute as necessary to prevent a repeat.

Dongwon is also the owner of StarKist, the leading canned tuna brand in the USA.

A Dongwon-owned purse seine tuna fishing vessel, F/V Premier, was caught using a fake fishing license in Liberia in 2011 and 2012. The company then sent a letter, allegedly forged to appear from the Liberian Bureau of National Fisheries, to the South Korean government that implied the allegation of illegal fishing was a misunderstanding. The same allegedly forged letter was also sent to the Mauritius government seeking new tuna fishing licenses for the seiner Premier in the Indian Ocean.

The government of Liberia has now formally sent a request to the South Korean government to investigate the Premier for its violations. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s East African and South-West Indian Ocean grouping of eight countries has already refused the vessel from fishing in their waters. The United Kingdom and European Union also issued a warning against the entry of illegally caught fish into their respective territories.

“The South Korean government should call Dongwon’s ship back to port for a thorough investigation, showing that we take allegations of illegal fishing seriously. Behavior at sea like this puts Korea’s reputation in a very bad light,” said Han Jeonghee, Greenpeace East Asia oceans campaigner. “The Korean government and the impacted African countries must punish Dongwon for its crimes.”

Under South Korean law, a vessel caught fishing illegally can have its license revoked, and in the case of repeated offence its highest executive can face up to 3 years in jail and millions in penalties.

Dongwon has more than a 50% market share on canned tuna in South Korea, it operates canneries in South Korea, and American Samoa, plus recently bought a plant on Senegal, Africa. It also owns the biggest US tuna brand StarKist. Greenpeace says that Dongwon Industries has a history of illegal fishing and is therefore ranked at the bottom the organization’s South Korean sustainable tuna guide last year.

According to the ISSF Purse seine Vessel database the purse seiner Premier was built in Spain in 1992, and has a tuna holding capacity of 1742 M/T and has a length of 70 meters. The vessel flies the South Korean flag and has been registered by ICCAT and the IOTC, however not by WCPFC and the IATTC.

Although Dongwon through its brand StarKist is a member of the ISSF, the vessel Premier is not mentioned in its “Proactive Vessel Register” (PVR). The PVR database shows each vessel’s progress towards, and commitment to, specific best practices in sustainable tuna fishing. The database is searchable by name, vessel number and best practices. It is also not mentioned at the ISSF website as not being in compliance.