Posted by Mike Crispino
27 November 2012
According to media reports, and a blog on its website, Greenpeace claims to have uncovered illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the world’s largest tuna fishing grounds – the western and central Pacific Ocean. If true, they managed to catch vessels engaging in an act that everyone knows takes place but few people have the ability to identify or document. But while it may be hard to stop these vessels from fishing altogether, the marketplace can certainly help to weed out the bad actors.
When vessels fish illegally not only do they gain an unfair advantage in the marketplace but they undermine existing conservation and management measures in place to protect tuna resources and the greater marine environment. Flying under the radar also creates gaps in data collection that can impact the accuracy of scientific assessments and this latest discovery highlights the need for improved transparency in the tuna supply chain. For starters, a traceability scheme that can track a product from capture to plate should be a baseline business standard. A credible scheme also includes recording a vessel’s unique identifier, like an IMO number.
Campaigners onboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza say they collected evidence of “a reefer sailing under the Cambodian flag, transshipping fish catches with two Indonesian tuna purse seine vessels and one Filipino reefer.” None of these vessels are listed in our IMO database, and while the Philippines is a member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and Indonesia is a Cooperating Non-member, Cambodia is neither.
Beginning January 1st, we’re calling on all tuna processors, traders, importers and markets to refrain from transactions with vessels that are not flagged to the relevant RFMO Member or Cooperating Non-member (unless the country has applied for such status). For ISSF Participating Companies, it’s mandatory. A measure like this would prohibit a majority of the world’s tuna brands from having anything to do with that, or any, Cambodian vessel.
But how can buyers and retailers feel confident that standards like this are actually being met? We asked the same question and came up with the ProActive Vessel Register. This database uses third party auditing – desktop and onsite – to verify that vessels are making the commitment to a series of improved practices that we’ve worked with industry, NGOs and scientists to identify. Practices like having an IMO number and being flagged to a nation that works with the relevant RFMO. While we can’t be on the water to cover every square inch of the ocean, industry can take meaningful, practical steps to eliminate the market for illegally caught tuna. And that’s a great start.