Singapore and Malaysia asked to close ports to toothfish piratesAccording to the 25 nation Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) vessels known to engage in Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing for toothfish, also known as ‘Chilean Sea Bass’ have been returning to Singapore and Malaysian ports after filling their holds with toothfish in the southern oceans.
“These poachers have been able to continue harming the Southern Ocean ecosystem because they have been able to find ways to get illegally caught toothfish to market”, said Rob Nicoll WWF’s Antarctic and Southern Ocean Initiative Manager. “These fishers will continue to cause harm to the Southern Ocean as long as some gaps exist.”
The fish are repacked for the Chinese market, sometimes in packaging purporting to mark premium legally caught fish. It is believed that some of the toothfish landed in Malaysia and Singapore are coming to Hong Kong, which is a problem as it has not acceded to CCAMLR with the rest of China and therefore there is no obligation to ensure toothfish coming into Hong Kong are not IUU fish. Patagonian toothfish, also known as Chilean sea bass, can fetch up to $20 US dollars per kg and have long been a favoured target of fishing pirates.
"Unregulated operators are using loopholes in international law to fish outside the framework of CCAMLR, which negatively impacts on legal operators" said Coaltion of Legal Toothfish Operators President, Martin Exel. "We're pleased that CCAMLR has taken such rapid action to alert the governments of Singapore and Malaysia to the IUU operations of these boats."
Governments can close markets to illegally caught fish by:
1. Further develop their cooperation with CCAMLR
2. Close their ports to boats, or products from boats, on CCAMLR IUU blacklist
3. Sign, ratify and implement the FAO Port State Agreement
CCAMLR has closed a number of toothfish fisheries in the Southern Ocean due to the impact of illegal fishers.
Despite the best efforts of CCAMLR and legal fishers to implement a catch documentation scheme and other measures to eliminate IUU fishing for toothfish it remains a significant problem.
CCAMLR has also revised and significantly increased its estimates of the impact of IUU fishing for two of the last four years by between 30 and 50 percent and even these numbers are still considered by some to be underestimates.
When the PRC acceded to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) back in 2006, it did not acceded on behalf of the Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region (HK SAR) such that, while Beijing is obliged to implement the toothfish catch documentation scheme, Hong Kong is not. New legislation would be required for Hong Kong to accede to CCAMLR, and as Hong Kong does not have vessels fishing in the Southern Ocean, joining CCAMLR may not have been deemed a priority in the past. However, recent information covered in the accompanying press release suggests that illegally caught Patagonian toothfish (also known as Chilean sea-bass) may be entering Hong Kong, and WWF Hong Kong has contacted the Hong Kong SAR Government to alert them to the situation, and encourage them to consider acceding to CCAMLR.