As governments begin final negotiations on an international plan to stop pirate fishing, Greenpeace activists protested at the Trevi Fountain to highlight the destruction caused by these renegade fishing fleets.

The activists entered the fountain with four model fishing vessels bearing the four main flags of convenience (Belize, Honduras, Panama, St Vincent and the Grenadines) bought by pirate fishing companies to avoid fisheries regulations. Below the Trevi fountain’s statue of Neptune, the activists displayed a banner saying: “Pirate fishing kills ocean life.”

A new Greenpeace report (1) released this week exposes the role of “flag of convenience”,or pirate fishing (2) vessels, in the destruction of marine ecosystems worldwide. Their unregulated nets and lines snare not only countless tons of fish, but also hundreds of thousands of sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, albatrosses and other endangered seabirds and non-target fish species. Scientists estimate that in four years at least 330,000 seabirds were caught and drowned by pirate fishing vessels in the Southern ocean around Antarctica.

Greenpeace activists also protested in Mexico, one of three key “pirate protectors” along with Brazil and the European Union.

Greenpeace estimates that there are some 1300 industrial-scale fishing vessels flying flags of convenience. The “registered” owners of the vessels are located in some 80 countries, but most are based in Taiwan, the European Union (primarily Spain), Panama, Belize and Honduras.

“The number of pirate fishing vessels is growing,” said Desley Mather of Greenpeace International. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that unless this loophole in international law is closed, more and more fishing companies will buy these flags to dodge fishing rules at the expense of the marine environment.”

The final round of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) negotiations on a draft International Plan of Action begins today. Greenpeace is extremely concerned that, in its current form, the plan will fail to achieve its objective, that is to “prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing”.

In its new report, Greenpeace criticises Brazil, Mexico and the EU, the three key “pirate protectors” during the negotiations so far(2).

“In blocking tough regulations, these countries are protecting pirate fishers at a time when fishery experts tell us that about three-quarters of the world’s fisheries are already fully exploited, overexploited or depleted,” said Mather. “If governments will not tackle these lawless fleets, how can they expect to manage what is left?”

Greenpeace has been actively campaigning against pirate fishing. In the past two years, it conducted two ship expeditions in the Southern ocean and one to the Atlantic ocean to document pirate fishing for Chilean sea-bass (Patagonian toothfish) and tuna.

Greenpeace demands that governments:

  • close ports to FOC fishing and support vessels;

  • close markets to FOC-caught fish;

  • close or otherwise prevent companies and nationals from owning or operating FOC fishing and support vessels.

For additional information check the FAO website:

For more information:
Desley Mather, Greenpeace International, mob. +31 6 1509 3589
Luisa Colasimone, Greenpeace Communications, mob. +31 6 2129 6920
Stills and footage available on request (+31 6 21 29 69 20)
Interviews available in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The report Pirate Fishing plundering the oceans, Greenpeace international, February 2001, is available on request.

  2. Brazil has rejected any requirement under the plan that countries only allow charter arrangements with fishing vessels and companies that operate in compliance with international law. This week, Greenpeace released photographs of a vessel Wen Shun 606, under flag of convenience country St Vincent and the Grenadines and chartered by a Brazilian company, unloading tuna in the Brazilian port of Cabedelo, Paraíba. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) believes that the Wen Shun 606 has been fishing in violation of international rules established by this regional fisheries organisation.

    Mexico has opposed any action to restrict market access or deny port access to flag of convenience vessels, claiming that this would pose an impediment to free trade. Greenpeace believes that free trade arguments cannot justify the continued plundering of fish stocks and other marine life by pirate fishing companies.

    The European Union has successfully deleted or weakened most of those provisions in the draft Plan of Action that call on governments to penalise companies based in their country which own flag of convenience vessels. Lloyds Shipping data for 1999 reveal that 168 vessels flying the flag of one of the top 10 flag of convenience countries are owned by companies registered in European Union countries

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