US$142m of illegally caught fish is transshipped in western, central Pacific: report
A REPORT by The Pew Charitable Trusts has found that the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission's (WCPFC's) management of transshipments in its waters is being compromised by significant gaps in reporting, monitoring and data sharing
A REPORT by The Pew Charitable Trusts has found that the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission's (WCPFC's) management of transshipments in its waters is being compromised by significant gaps in reporting, monitoring and data sharing.
Transshipment is the transfer of fish from the vessel that caught the fish to a carrier vessel that will deliver the fish to port, an activity that often takes place on the high seas and beyond the view and reach of authorities.
The largely hidden nature of transferring caught fish from one vessel to another allows unscrupulous fishing vessel operators to obscure, manipulate or otherwise falsify data on their fishing practices. This contributes to millions of dollars of illegally caught fish entering the seafood supply chain each year.
According to the report, 'only 25 carrier vessels reported high seas transshipments to the WCPFC's secretariat in 2016 - but at least five times as many authorised carrier vessels potentially transshipped in port or at sea in WCPFC waters in 2016.'
The Pew Charitable Trusts said in a statement that 'a strong probability exists that more at-sea transshipment events occurred than were reported to the WCPFC by carrier vessels themselves or by relevant flag or coastal state authorities. Very little information is available on the remaining vessels' activities.'
A study cited in the report estimated that US$142 million worth of illegal, unreported and unregulated catch is transshipped in the western and central Pacific Ocean alone - most of it misreported or not reported by licensed fishing vessels.
'The relative lack of transparency surrounding transshipment is a cause for great concern,' said Pew's director of international fisheries, Amanda Nickson. 'Misreporting or not reporting catch not only hinders management efforts to improve the health of fish stocks, but it also hurts the economies of island nations that heavily rely on fishing.'
Pew's report urges the WCPFC to enhance data-sharing agreements with other regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) whose waters overlap with its own. Gaps in coordination increase the risk that unreported transshipments may cause RFMOs to inaccurately count all species caught in waters they manage, adversely affecting the accuracy of stock assessments.
To make vessel operations more transparent, Pew's report recommends that three parts of the transshipment regulatory framework be significantly strengthened: reporting, monitoring and data sharing.