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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Turf war hurting fisheries: report
Asian governments and fishing fleets are bankrolling escalating corruption levels in Pacific Island fisheries, with activities ranging from wharf-side bribes to blatant political interference, a new international report says.
The World Conservation Union says corruption "is compounding the devastating effects of over-fishing", robbing Pacific Island economies of millions of dollars and economic development opportunities.
A section of the global report, prepared by Australian researchers at the University of Wollongong, said a turf war between China and Taiwan in the western and central Pacific Ocean had been blamed for increasing corruption, "as neither side is playing by the normal rules of the aid game in the Pacific".
A heavy reliance on foreign aid made Pacific nations "highly vulnerable to manipulations by foreign powers", with a recent inquiry revealing Solomon Islands lost more than $4.5million through government rorting of foreign fisheries licences.
Overfishing of bigeye and yellowfin tuna in the region is a growing concern, with foreign fishing fleets ignoring recommended catch quotas and threatening the sustainability and economic viability of an industry worth $800million to Pacific Island fisheries.
Wollongong University law professor Martin Tsamenyi and research fellow Quentin Hanich said corruption within Pacific Island fisheries included "low level corrupt activities where port inspectors might be offered a large tuna in return for 'going easy' on a vessel and not verifying logbooks or inspections".
Other examples included "private" government licensing of foreign vessels, siphoning-off licence fees into private bank accounts and cash payments for favourable licence conditions.
In their report to the World Conservation Union's fisheries law enforcement program, Professor Tsamenyi and Mr Hanich recommend removing government ministers from any role in fisheries licensing, and introducing an audit system requiring "multiple reviews and checks", with all licence details and agreements available on websites for public scrutiny.
The union says fisheries corruption is also manifest in the growing number of Flags of Convenience fishing vessels those registered to a foreign nation to avoid complying with labour regulations, fisheries agreements and tax laws in their own countries. It estimates more than 1200 industrial fishing vessels fly flags of convenience and more than 1400 large-scale fishing vessels "operate under unknown flags."
It says many of these vessels are also involved in drugs and arms trafficking and the illegal wildlife trade.
China is also emerging as a leading player in processing, packaging and re-exporting illegally caught fish including high-value species such as tuna, toothfish, cod and abalone. More than 16million tonnes of fish, or 20per cent of annual global catch, valued at $11billion is illegally caught.
The report says more than 80per cent of Patagonian tooth-fish known as "white gold" because it fetches up to $34 a kilogram sold in global fish markets is caught illegally in Antarctic waters with about 90 ships involved in this illegal trade. The average weight of a commercially caught toothfish is about 10kg with larger adults sometimes weighing more than 200kg.
The report says corruption in fisheries has worsened as global fish stocks continue to decline and consumer demand for seafood increases.
The director of the International Conservation Union's global marine program, Carl Gustaf Lundin, said corruption tainted all aspects of the fishing industry, from scientific research used to allocate catch quotas to mislabelling of fish.
"The world's global fish stocks are already severely depleted by overfishing and this is just making the situation worse. Fisheries corruption undermines the ability of scientists to know how many fish are removed from the oceans, causing inaccurate stock assessments. Fisheries managers are therefore far more likely to approve total allowable catches that are higher than those that would be based on sound scientific advice."
The conservation union and World Bank are hosting global talks in Washington this week to discuss ways to stamp out fisheries corruption.
Solutions proposed include better enforcement of quotas, introduction of mandatory satellite tracking of fishing vessels, a ban on catch transfers at sea to reduce the ability to "launder" illegally caught fish, improved supply chain labelling and electronic documentation to reduce forgery and fraud of catch data.
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