Source: Oceana / The Dawn News / September 12, 2017
According to a recent report, member states of the European Union have authorized illegal fishing in the coast of Africa for more than three years, violating regional policies and laws.
Oceana, the biggest international organization for the conservation of oceans, has affirmed that Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain have violated the laws of Common Fishing Policy by authorizing private boats to fish in the waters of Gambia and Equatorial Guinea.
Through an online monitoring tool, Oceana registered 19 boats with EU flags that fished illegally for almost 32,000 hours in African waters from April 2012 to August 2015.
EU vessels fishing on the high seas or in foreign waters contribute 28 percent of the total EU catch. It is estimated that EU Member States have awarded more than 23,000 fishing vessel authorizations to fish outside EU waters since 2008.
The EU’s distant water fleet fishes around the world; distant water fishing under official EU access agreements (termed Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements) often occurs in developing countries’ waters, including those on the West and East African coasts.
In order to be able to fish in non-EU countries, EU boats need authorization from their flag states.
The European Union has signed fisheries partnership agreements with several African countries, offering financial and technical support in exchange for fishing rights.
However, its agreements with Gambia and Equatorial Guinea are “dormant,” signifying countries that signed fishing partnership agreements “without having a protocol into force, for structural or conjunctural reasons.” Under rules set by the European Commission, EU vessels are not allowed to fish in waters of countries with dormant agreements.
According to Oceana, these private agreements are problematic because they are negotiated in total obscurity. Vessels provide no information about which species they intend to capture, fishing areas, fishing methods or data about the catch.
As the amount of fish has been decreasing in oceans around the world, illegal fishing has become a serious problem at a global scale. African countries are especially affected by illegal fishing, because big European and Asian trawlers use different tactics to plunder the seabed and deplete vulnerable species like sharks and reef fish.
The problem is even bigger for Western Africa, where illegal fishing costs countries like Senegal, Guinea and Sierra Leone an annual 2,000 million dollars. In Somalia, the reduction of marine patrols and the comeback of illegal fishing are considered to be the causes of the resurgence of the infamous pirate industry.
In order to solve this, among other measures, Oceana demands states to oblige private fishing authorizations to comply with the same standards that Europe has on fishing, environment and labor. They also point out the need for penalizations or denial of fishing permits for boats that fail to comply with the law or turn off the Automatic Identification System that sends their location to a satellite while they are active.