Fishermen ‘treated worse than the fish they catch’

Fishermen ‘treated worse than the fish they catch’

Campaigners from the Environmental Justice Foundation and Greenpeace have distributed harrowing evidence (including video footage — see below) of illegal fishing off the coast of West Africa this week, which has prompted many in Europe to call for a more rigorous investigation by governments into the fishing industry.

Investigators discovered dozens of pirate fishing ships roaming the Atlantic Ocean and operating beyond the law.

Many of the trawlers never dock. They not only deplete fragile marine stocks, they are crewed by untrained and illiterate workers working up to 18 hours a day in appalling conditions.

So how can you tell whether the fish you buy is the result of illegal fishing practices?

Well, it’s exceptionally difficult. EU regulations require buyers to trace:

  • the identity of the company that owns the vessel that caught the fish,
  • the registration and national flag of the vessel,
  • the species of the fish and the country it was caught in,
  • the date or sailing date of the fishing trip,
  • fishing method,
  • storage method and temperature,
  • names of sustainable or ethical fishing certifications for the fishery,
  • name and address of the company receiving the fish, and
  • the date and location of the sales transaction.

Moreover, it is forbidden to import fish into the EU unless the catch has been certified as legal by the flag state of the vessel.

Campaigners argue that many countries, including South Korea and China, are not effectively policing fishing vessels using their flags. They’ve also found cases of “laundered” pirate fish — i.e., fish caught illegally but packaged as though part a licensed catch.


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