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EU Tuna Super Seiner Fined USD 1 Million For IUU Fishing In Nauru

The Nauru District Court has fined a European Union fishing vessel licensed to fish in Kiribati, USD 1 million for illegally fishing in Nauru waters.

‘Albacora Uno’, a super seiner with a gross registered tonnage of 2,000 M/T, flying the Spanish flag, was detected by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) surveillance systems in Honiara in the Solomon Islands in 2012 and the matter was relayed to the Nauruan Government through the FFA legal team with recommendations on the matter.

While the FFA was ready to report the ship to the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to be blacklisted for IUU activities, it was up to the sovereign nation to decide which legal avenue it wished to take regarding the issue.

Nauru chose to deal with it in their own courts, thus the ship escaped blacklisting by the WCPFC, which would have banned the ship from fishing in the region plus hefty fines. The purse seiner’s master, Jose Arrua Ispizua, and its fishing master, Sergio Iturraspe Iraculi, appeared in court charged with six counts of illegal fishing. They both pleaded guilty in the Nauru court. The court was told that the crew believed they were fishing in Kiribati waters (EEZ) and not Nauru.

Passing judgment on the two defendants on September 30, Nauru Resident Magistrate Peter Law noted that the defendants admitted their responsibility to ensuring the accuracy of the equipment used to establish the location of the vessel. However, he said tuna and other fish are valuable commodities which fishing companies exploit for profit through export to countries outside the Pacific region.

“In assessing the criminality of the defendants, the court notes that fishing is a scarce resource, which provides for the livelihood of a significant portion of the population of Nauru.

“The government of Nauru issues fishing licenses to foreign vessels and receives significant fees from the licenses. “These fees are relied upon to contribute to the government’s budget and to enable the government to meet expenditure targets.

“The court notes the maximum fines which could be imposed for the six offences totaling USD 1,600,000.” FFA Deputy Director General Wes Norris described Illegal Unreported Unregulated Fishing as ‘the scourge of any fishery’.

“It robs developing coastal states like Nauru of valuable resources, reduces the value of legitimate fishing opportunities, compromises sustainability and obstructs fisheries development,” he said. Unsatisfied with the outcome and how the vessel escaped the ultimate WCPFC blacklisting, Greenpeace has IUU blacklisted ‘Albacora Uno’.

Greenpeace Pacific political advisor Seni Nabou says it seems like when you’re a big fish in the tuna industry, you can break whatever rules.

“Huge profits are at stake in the tuna fishery, but so is the future of a fish that is a vital source of food, livelihoods and income to small islands states,” she said.