The net closes slowlly on IUU fishing / by Francisco Blaha

Is not news to most people my deep disgust with fisheries subsidies, based on many reasons.  But my main grief is because the biggest culprits here are the bigger Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFN).

Would that hold be full without subsidies?

Would that hold be full without subsidies?

This week I'm attending and presenting a paper at the 5th Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop (GFETW) in Auckland. Sharing with people of over 60 countries many of the advances we have achieved in the Pacific.

I'm happy to see that many of the systems we deploy are at world class level, which more than admirable since many of the PICs are classified as Least Developed Countries and services that are guaranteed in the rest of the world (like Internet and electricity) are still irregular features. Even so, and based on a mixture of determination, lateral thinking and stubbornness we have a unique "state of the art" system that is getting stronger and stronger by the day... And all this without subsidies.

However, with the honorable exemption of EU, the rest of the DWFN are completely absent of the picture. Nor China or Taiwan have representatives. Korea sent 3 people that have not yet make them selves heard at all.

These are not small countries, in fact Taiwan and China have the biggest fleets in the Pacific, and the biggest subsidies.

World’s largest subsidizers of commercial fishing, estimated US$4 billion annually.
China operates in over 90 countries, and all oceans and regions of the world, except in the Caribbean, the North Atlantic and the Arctic. China has 50% of all of the fishing vessels larger than 24 meters.  By way of comparison, no other country has more than 10%.  of this industrial fleet.

€400 million on the distant water fishing industry in the period 2002 to 2010.Of the total, about 75% was used to increase the capacity of the fleet, including subsidization of diesel for vessels and vessels buy- back programs.

Against this picture, I feel very disheartened... We are expecting the Fisheries Authorities of Small Developing Islands coastal and port states, to take on the burden of controlling the vessels of rich Distant Waters Fishing Nations that subsidise their fleet with amounts that far exceed the global estimates of IUU fishing.

If Pacific Island Countries can take positive steps to control their own and the DWFN vessels operating in their waters... there is absolutely no reason why China, Taiwan and Korea cannot do the same, when they are way more developed and spend obnoxious amounts of money subsidising their fleets.

And while the EU also subsidizes their fleet (not to Chinese levels tho), its main beneficiary, Spain, is doing incredibly well in terms of closing the net on IUU operators.

While have yet to see the news published in English,  4 members of Antonio Vidal's family have been detained in Galicia for their involvement in the illegal fishing operations for tootfish in the southern seas that finished with the detention of 4 vessels, the sinking of 1 while 1 still at large. And while the tackling of family members seems to relate more to a mafia operation than to IUU fishing... but reality is that there is no much difference.

Many if us in the fisheries compliance world have been skeptic of the EU's anti IUU fisheries drive in foreign countries, when some of their own members where active participants and financiers of those operations... but this is changing rapidly, and I applaud Spain's new law enforcement.