Tens of countries sign up to shut pirate fishers out of their ports
The first of its kind, a new international treaty obliges signatories to intercept pirate fishers before they can sell their catch
Monday 23 May 2016 07.19 EDT Last modified on Monday 23 May 2016 11.43 EDT
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In March, the Argentinian coast guard shot at and sank a Chinese vessel that was alleged to be fishing illegally in Argentinian waters (the crew were all rescued). While it’s unclear whether the boat was committing crime, the incident showed that the tension surrounding pirate fishing is reaching a peak, marked elsewhere by increasing conflict, and the detainment and scuttling of illegal fishing fleets. But for pirate fishers, the financial gains appear to be worth these risks.
Illegal fishing vessels siphon off up to 26 million tons of illegally caught fish each year, which amounts to over $23bn (£16bn) in profit. This not only deprives legitimate fishers of their catch, but as it’s an unregulated practice, it also undermines the stability of fisheries stocks around the world. Illegal fishing also has a hand in driving already threatened species closer to extinction—like the critically-endangered vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise, whose fate is rapidly being worsened by illegal fishers in Mexico who tangle and drown the small, protected mammals in their gill nets.
The only common ground illegal fishing vessels share with ordinary fishing boats is their dependence on ports, where they dock with their catch so they can bring it to market. If they can’t take refuge in one port, they may try their luck at the next one, assuming they’ll always have some place else to go with their illicit fish.
But a momentous new treaty, led by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), aims to shut down this convenient network. Known as the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), the treaty, which comes into full force on 5 June, requires signatory countries to inspect or stop suspicious fishing vessels from entering their ports. Under the banner of the rule, countries that have signed now hold a legal obligation to, quite literally, leave illegal fishers out in the cold.http://www.theguardian.com/environment/world-on-a-plate/2016/may/23/tens-of-countries-sign-up-to-shut-pirate-fishers-out-of-their-ports