Data loading...

South Korea Seen As Main IUU Nation In African Waters

Following a string of incidents, South Korea has been branded as a main IUU tuna fishing nation in African waters, costing the continent millions of dollars a year. Activist and environmental organizations are calling for new measure to prevent illegal fishing activities.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) annual meeting, currently taking place in Cape Town, South Africa, follows a series of illegal fishing occurrences off West Africa, two of which involved Dongwon owned or operated vessels. Dongwon is South Korea’s largest tuna fishing company and owns US tuna brand StarKist.

The two vessels were caught fishing illegally off Liberia in 2011 and 2012. Dongwon had to pay a USD 2 million settlement to the Liberian government this May to have the ships released. Another South Korean vessel, the Nine Star, owned by the Seokyung Corp., was seized for illegal fishing by Liberian authorities in June.

Elizabeth Wilson of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ environmental wing said that there were indications that South Korean companies were among the major offenders involved in illegal fishing in African waters. 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.

Pew and other environmental groups are now 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.

Wilson added: “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.”

Environmental groups are also 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.

Contrastingly, in July this year, the Korean National Assembly amended its fisheries laws to help curb illegal fishing. The amendment to South Korea’s Water Fisheries Act increased penalties for illegal fishing to a maximum of three times the value of the fish caught, up from the previous fine of USD 5,000.