SPAIN - The Spanish Secretaria General de Pesca, the Organización de Productores Asociados de Grandes Atuneros Congeladores (OPAGAC) and the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to implement a new joint pilot project allowing the Spanish Government to monitor fishing vessels operating in West Africa more effectively.
The ground-breaking pilot project, which began in November 2014, will equip Spanish-flagged and Spanish-owned fishing vessels with observation systems that will make it possible to monitor the fleet for unidentified or suspicious fishing activity.
Information will be transmitted in real-time to the Spanish Government’s Fisheries Monitoring Centre in Secretaria General de Pesca, Madrid, where it will be analysed by fisheries inspectors with additional support from EJF representatives who specialise in the surveillance of fishing vessels.
The aim of this new project is to combat IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) or ‘pirate’ fishing in West Africa. The pilot project is aligned with the Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 to establish a community system to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing, supporting the recognised role of masters in the sightings of possible IUU activities, which can eventually lead to banning imports of fishing products from illegal origins. The identities of the boats involved will not be made public in order to guarantee confidentiality and ensure that any legal processes arising from evidence gathered are not jeopardised.
This initiative complements others that EJF is implementing in the West Africa region as part of the organisation’s ambitious and innovative Fisheries Intelligence Network (FIN), which gathers evidence of the activities of fishing vessels and promotes transparency in the fisheries sector across the whole of West Africa.
Working in Sierra Leone and Liberia since 2006, EJF has prompted multiple arrests of pirate fishing vessels with the collaboration of local and international institutions. EJF’s Fisheries Information Network aims to ensure that sanctions are imposed for IUU activities, to ensure that illegally-caught fish does not reach markets, to improve transparency in fisheries and to identify trends across the region to inform national, regional and global decision-making. This network involves African local governments as well as European ones, who collaborate together on the follow up of fishing activities and transhipments.
The Secretaria General de Pesca participated in a training session hosted by OPAPGAC on 25 November 2014 in Bermeo, Vizcaya, to give all stakeholders an overview of the international and European legal framework that backs up this initiative to combat IUU fishing, as well as IT training for the technologies to be used in the observation. Strict security and confidentiality protocols were agreed since IUU or ‘pirate’ fishing is often linked to other illegal activities, including human trafficking, the drugs and arms trades as well as money laundering.
Steve Trent, Executive Director of EJF, said: “By using the latest technologies on vessels operating at sea, we can better observe fishing activities taking place in West Africa, where fisheries are a key source of food security and livelihoods, IUU fishing is rampant and fish stocks are seriously threatened. Crucially, employing technology in this way keeps cost to a minimum while maximising effectiveness. The information gathered through this ground-breaking project will be analysed alongside other sources of intelligence, including satellite based technology and port records, to ensure it is robust. We are proud to be working with the Spanish Government to take a stand against IUU fishing and are grateful to the vessels that have volunteered to take part in this project, since legal fishing operators have an important role in our fight to end IUU fishing across the world’s oceans.”
TheFishSite News Desk