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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Pirate boats targeting NZs swordfish
New Zealands potentially lucrative swordfish stock has been plundered by two shadowy Spanish fishing trawlers flying Senegalese flags-of-convenience in international waters off the Kermadec Islands.
Diplomatic efforts are underway to get the two boats, Vieirasa Cinco and Robaleira, formally listed with four others to be banned from the Pacific for illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing.
One of the four were caught by the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
A powerful Spanish industry lobby group is threatening to go to international courts to "claim our rights and demand compensation of the huge damages" (sic).
Although in international waters fish like tuna and swordfish come under control of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) which protects highly migratory fish stocks. Its annual meeting opened in Guam yesterday and high on its agenda is a plan to publish a list of IUU boats.
Listing would lead to the boats being banned in the vast WCPFC area which covers most of the Pacific, the main source of world tuna.
Pacific politicians and diplomats have long feared a flood of mainly European boats heading into the Pacific following the collapse of major Mediterranean and North Atlantic fish stocks. Mediterranean swordfish has been wiped out by driftnetting, leading to calls for consumer bans on it in Europe.
The WCPFC meeting is considering the list of six vessels to be declared IUU ships.
Vieirasa Cinco and Robaleira are both Senegalese-flagged longliner and have been reported to the Commission by French Polynesia "for conducting unauthorized swordfish operations in the area between French Polynesia and New Zealand". They had been operating out of Tahiti.
The head of international fishing at the Ministry of Fisheries in Wellington would not discuss the details of the way the boats were picked up here.
"We have been monitoring these boats, along with others," she said.
The IUU listing option has drawn a counter-threat from a Spanish lobby group "Cluster; Fishing companies in Third Countries" which says it represents 450 fishing boats belonging to 220 companies operating in 30 countries.
Its managing director Jose Parajua said in a letter the two boats have been legally working the swordfish but honoured a request to pull out two months ago.
The fishing company owner, Viera Mar. S.A., and Senegalese authorities were cooperating with the WCPFC.
"Our Cluster considers absolutely unfair the action taken by the WCPFC against Senegalese vessels," Mr Parajua wrote.
"Finally, we would like to let you know that, should your organisations position persist, we will exercise our right to take the legal actions we may consider appropriate before the competent international courts, to which we will claim our rights and demand the compensation of the huge damages caused upon our partner."
The other boats to go on the IUU list this week are a Venezuelan purse seiner Athena F, was reported by the Cook Islands.
An RNZAF Orion photographed it in May operating inside the Cooks exclusive economic zone.
Another Venezuelan, Daniela F, was caught by the French Navy with 80 tonnes of illegal fish taken off the Marquesas Islands.
Also to be listed are two Taiwan boats. The small Cook Island police boat Te Kukupa nabbed Yin Chin No 1 illegally fishing. It was only allowed to leave after its company paid the Cooks $250,000 in fines.
The Micronesian Government tried to arrest Jinn Feng Tsair No 1 but it fled.
The papers say Taiwanese authorities considered both cases were serious but say Jinn Feng Tsair has since been sold. They were investigating whether there was a link between the previous and current owners.
By being listed boats are banned from the Pacific for a year. China has complained that this was a "disproportionately harsh punishment" while Australia wanted the conference to note "the presence of EC-owned and Latin American flagged vessels in and around the waters of Kiribati."
New Zealand is using the Guam meeting to push for a more comprehensive IUU banning list that will include beneficial owners, operators and the national identities on boats.
In November last year Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton introduced emergency measures to control swordfishing north east of New Zealand after a licensed Australian boat caught 51 albatrosses, seven petrels and two critically endangered leatherback turtles.
Swordfish are a strong swimming pelagic species that is found in many parts of New Zealands waters and beyond, being part of a southwest Pacific stock.
They only entered New Zealands quota management system last year. Prior to that commercial fishers were not allowed to target them.
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Issues/Flag state issues
Issues/Monitoring, control and surveillance
Oceania/Other Pacific Islands