REPORT ILLEGAL DRIFTNETTING!
[click any photo for a larger version]
There is growing evidence of an increasing number of illegal, unregistered, and undocumented (IUU) driftnetters operating in the North Pacific and Indian Ocean, many of them flagged in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
CHINA, U.S., JAPAN COOPERATE AGAINST HIGH-SEAS DRIFT NETS NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN The United States Coast Guard, the People's Republic of China Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC), and Japanese Coast Guard are investigating a fishing vessel suspected of illegal high-seas drift net fishing five hundred miles east of Hokkaido, Japan.Full Story
The WFOA is concerned about this ruse to prevent enforcement of existing international bans on illegal high seas driftnetting. We are very concerned about this buildup in illegal effort, especially at a time when restrictions are being proposed for legitimate fleets fishing for albacore and other tunas in the Pacific Ocean. WFOA Statement on Illegal Driftnetting
NOTE: The United States has a number of fisheries that use driftnet methods to catch a variety of species. ALL of these fisheries are regulated and managed at state and federal levels in a very thorough manner. This includes license restrictions, limited entry, quotas, by-catch mitigation, logbooks, etc.. The problem is that interest groups with anti-driftnet agendas would at times like to lump together legal well regulated fisheries, with completely renegade, flag of convenience fisheries with no regard for conservation and regulation.
The elimination of these types of vessels should be a major concern to the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fisheries Management Councils.
Unless the problem of IUU fishing is adequately addressed, there is serious concern about the effectiveness of U.S. management measures and the future sustainability of both the resource and the legitimate fishing industry.
WFOA has been working with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security to monitor and report these vessels in the North Pacific for a number of years. We will continue to work with the Coast Guard to locate and apprehend these vessels, and will continue to raise this issue with elected and appointed leadership of the U.S. and Canadian governments until this problem is brought under control.
We understand that the U.S. Coast Guard continues to receive information from the U.S. albacore fleet. The Coast Guard has reacted in the past to the fleet-reported sightings of illegal high seas gillnets. While the USCG has limited resources to react to these reports, it does want to continue receiving the reports, andwill react to the best of their ability.
WFOA and the American Fishermen's Research Foundation will continue efforts to educate regulators on the increase in this activity and the potential threat to the health of the albacore fishery.
We are very concerned, as we were in the late 1980s and early 1990s, that unenforced fishing by these vessels will have dramatic impacts on the North Pacific albacore stocks. In the late 1980s catch by U.S. albacore fleets dropped by nearly 80 percent and did not recover until the mid-1990s.
Fishermen have been active in reporting sightings as well as gillnet marked fish; however, being in such a remote area makes it problematic to have enforcement in the area other than by air. Thus it's not clear what the best method would be for reporting evidence of illegal fishing in order to get the most efficient response.
The U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area Command and the National Marine Fisheries Service's Office of Law Enforcement need to make fishermen aware of the best points of contact for the reporting of suspected IUU activities. WFOA and AFRF also recommend that the agencies involved coordinate their enforcement efforts more effectively.
At the November 2005 Pacific Fisheries Management Council meeting, the Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel (HMSAS) noted that West Coast albacore fishermen have been encountering more net-scarred fish, as well as visual sightings of active driftnet vessels. This raised a concern that there has been a recent marked increase, especially in the region west of the international dateline.
The HMSAS advised, and the Council concurred, that the Coast Guard and National Marine Fisheries Service Enforcement step up surveillance and international coordination to eliminate the illegal take of fish important to U.S. fishermen.
WFOA strongly encourages coordination between all enforcement bodies both at the federal and international levels, to track and apprehend any vessels and vessel owners fishing with illegal gear for albacore and salmon. WFOA also encourages more scrutiny of this activity by all federal and international management bodies, and we recommend that those bodies call for enforcement reporting and follow through on it.
Finally, we also would like to see better and more thorough estimates of IUU catch and tracking of where and to whom those fish are marketed.
For more information, contact Wayne Heikkila, WFOA Executive Director, at (530)229-1097. Fax(530)229-0973 EMail: firstname.lastname@example.org