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Oceana’s investigation exposes unlawful fishing by EU-flagged vessels from Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain and calls for global reforms to increase transparency in international fisheries governance

Oceana today released a new report highlighting unlawful fishing activities, authorized by four European countries, in the waters of The Gambia and Equatorial Guinea between April 2012 and August 2015.

Using data from Global Fishing Watch, an online technology tool that provides the first global view of commercial fishing activity, Oceana found that Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain awarded private fishing authorizations, which granted individual vessels access to these waters in contravention of EU law.

Oceana’s findings show that even vessels from countries with strong legal frameworks, such as those within the EU, can engage in unlawful practices. We are happy that the EU has just passed a new regulation that will help ensure the transparency of all fishing activities outside EU waters, and which calls on the rest of the world’s flag States to follow suit, and to pass laws and control measures to ensure that the fishing activities of their fleet are sustainable and transparent,” said María José Cornax, senior policy and advocacy director at Oceana in Europe.

EU countries cannot legally issue permits for their vessels to fish in the waters of nations with dormant fishing agreements, for example with The Gambia and Equatorial Guinea. With the help of Global Fishing Watch, Oceana found that:

19 EU-flagged vessels fished unlawfully for more than 31,000 hours between April 2012 and August 2015, which included:

  • 18 EU-flagged vessels from Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain fishing in the waters of The Gambia for 31,706 hours.
  • 1 EU-flagged vessel from Spain fishing in the waters of Equatorial Guinea for 170 hours.

“With the help of technologies like Global Fishing Watch, we can now see what’s happening beyond the horizon,” said Beth Lowell, senior campaign director for illegal fishing and seafood fraud at Oceana.

“Countries can also play their part in increasing transparency at sea by requiring vessel tracking for all fishing vessels and making all fishing agreements public.”

EU vessels fishing on the high seas or in foreign waters contribute 28 percent of the total EU catch. It is estimated that EU Member States have awarded more than 23 000 fishing vessel authorizations to fish outside EU waters since 2008.

The EU’s distant water fleet fishes around the world; distant water fishing under official EU access agreements (termed Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements) often occurs in developing countries’ waters, including those on the West and East African coasts.

In June 2017, the EU agreed on a new regulation governing the activities of the EU’s fishing fleet outside of its waters. The reformed law requires equal oversight of fishing vessels, regardless of where they operate or under what type of agreement. When fully implemented, the new law will significantly improve the oversight of the EU’s external fishing fleet and ensure the continued leadership of the EU in matters of global fisheries governance. 

To access Oceana’s report click here.

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