MARINE

Antarctic fishing pirates named and shamed

Wednesday 9 July 2008, 5:07PM
By Hon Jim Anderton
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An international fishing company caught supporting Southern Ocean illegal fishing can now be named and shamed, after a failed attempt to gag the government in the High Court, Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today.

“Illegal fishing is a serious threat to global fisheries and this case shines a light on the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Southern Ocean,” Mr Anderton said.

"The Namibian-flagged fishing vessel Paloma V wanted to unload toothfish in Auckland in May. Its owner, Omunkete Fishing (Pty) Limited took the government to court because it wanted to stop us reporting it to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)," said Mr Peters.

"Omunkete also wanted to stop New Zealand from recommending its vessel be put on the illegal fishing blacklist. Blacklisting would prevent it from entering the ports of the 34 countries that have signed the CCAMLR convention."

"The boat was examined by Fishery officers and information was found linking it to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The boat’s computer records revealed that it had contact with known illegal fishing vessels and had re-supplied them at sea," said Mr Anderton.

The Omunkete case claimed the in-port vessel search process was flawed but the High Court found in the government’s favour. As soon as the High Court released its decision, the government filed its CCAMLR report. The recommendation to blacklist Paloma V will be considered at CCAMLR’s annual meeting in October.

“We need to stamp out illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. It is wreaking havoc with fish stock sustainability and damaging the environment. These fishers take no safeguards and cause the indiscriminate death and suffering of many species including seabirds such as albatross and petrels," said Mr Anderton.

“We have reason to believe these fishing outfits pillaging the Southern Ocean have their eye on the Ross Sea, reinforced by the sighting of the illegal fishing vessel Triton 1 by an RNZAF Orion there earlier this year,” Mr Peters said.

“New Zealand is at the forefront of global efforts to combat unsustainable fishing, including recent participation in UN negotiations to develop a binding international agreement on measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing."

“The outcome of the case confirms the strength of New Zealand’s inspection regime and should send a strong signal to any foreign vessel intending to make use of New Zealand ports for these types of catches," said Mr Anderton.

“We have a robust framework which protects our fisheries, and in turn helps protect global fisheries – the illegal fishers tested it and came off second best.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Ministry of Fisheries have been working with our Pacific neighbours to co-ordinate the fight against those who undermine the sustainability of fisheries and international management measures,” Mr Anderton said.

“This decision confirms there is no place for illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing activity in the Southern Ocean or in waters around New Zealand,” Mr Peters said.

NOTE:

As Paloma V’s flag state, Namibian authorities were also sent a copy of the report to CCAMLR. Namibia is a CCAMLR member state.

Paloma V left Auckland in late May with its fish still onboard, bound for Walvis Bay, Namibia.

To see the full court ruling go to http://jdo.justice.govt.nz/jdo/search.jsp and enter the search word Omunkete.