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100 Percent Observer Coverage To Stop Tuna Laundering

Greenpeace believes that transshipments at sea are facilitating the laundering of illegal and unreported tuna catches worldwide. The environmental group stresses that this on-water transfer of fish continues to be the standard operating practice for large numbers of tuna longline vessels.

In a new report, titled “Out of line, the failure of the global tuna longline fisheries,” Greenpeace states: “No RFMO has prohibited the practice of transfer of catches at sea from longline vessels to reefers or other fishing vessels. There have been many calls to place observers on board longline vessels in order to improve compliance, but generally the observer coverage level required by RFMOs is around 5 percent.”

Fish laundering happens when vessels inside an EEZ go into the high seas to transfer their catch to other fishing vessels or reefers. Catch can then be declared as having been caught in the high seas, which counts as a form of laundering. This allows foreign vessels to fish in EEZs without paying the correct fees to the coastal state.

Over 5000 longline vessels are thought to be fishing for tuna and tuna like species across the world. Greenpeace estimates global illegal fishing activities by longliners to be worth as much as USD 10 billion annually.

The report points to another laundering method where a vessel that is fishing illegally transfers its catch to a ship that holds the correct paperwork. The tuna is then offloaded to a reefer or at port as being caught by the second vessel. Greenpeace also explains: “Vessels can use the high seas as a refuge and cover for fishing illegally, without a license, in EEZs. When the enforcement approaches, the offending vessels will quickly return to the high seas where it is legal to fish.”

Solutions to the issue suggested by Greenpeace include “capacity reduction and sustainable catch limits; ban at-sea transshipments; proper monitoring and 100 percent observer coverage; close vulnerable areas such as the Pacific high seas enclaves to all fishing; traders to ensure legal, sustainable and traceable supplies of longline caught tuna.”