Greenpeace Uncovers Illegal Tuna Laundering in the Pacific Ocean
New evidence exposes loopholes in enforcement, chain of custody
Greenpeace has uncovered a large-scale illegal transfer of fish at sea between one ship from Cambodia, one from the Philippines, and two from Indonesia in the Pacific Commons.
None of the boats are on the official record of vessels authorized to operate in the area and they are therefore not allowed to fish or transfer fish at sea according to the rules of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
Greenpeace collected photo and video evidence showing MV Heng Xing 1, a reefer sailing under the Cambodian flag, transshipping fish catches with two Indonesian tuna purse seine vessels (KM Starcki 10 and KM Starcki 11) and one Filipino reefer (Sal 19).
The Indonesian and Philippine vessels are bound by WCPFC rules and their involvement in the transshipment is therefore illegal. (1) Cambodia is not a member of the WCPFC and the reefer is therefore considered unregulated.
In addition, an oil slick, stretching a mile long, was also observed during the transshipment. Greenpeace will share this evidence with enforcement authorities at NOAA and other relevant governments, as well as the WCPFC.
Greenpeace activists boarded the MV Heng Xing and examined the fish hold, which was full of mostly frozen skipjack tuna and some yellowfin, likely destined for canned tuna markets. Yellowfin tuna was recently assessed under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria for threatened species and is now classified as near threatened (2).
“This illegal and unregulated activity is a stark reminder of the urgent need to close the Pacific Commons to all fishing and increase enforcement,” said John Hocevar, Oceans Campaign Director for Greenpeace USA. “In order for people to be confident that their canned tuna is legal, never mind sustainable, we need stronger traceability standards so retailers can track seafood from where it is caught all the way to the shelf.”
The Pacific is the source of 70% of the world’s tuna, providing coastal communities not only with food but also economic prosperity. For years, Greenpeace has been working with Pacific governments to address overfishing and prevent foreign fishing nations from plundering their fishing grounds.
Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans, including in four high seas areas known as the Pacific Commons (3). The environmental group is also seeking a ban on the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) in purse seine fisheries and a 50% reduction in the catch of bigeye tuna.
These measures are important to keep valuable fish stocks at a sustainable level and will be reviewed at the upcoming meeting of the Western and Central Fisheries Commission in Manila from 2-7 December. Around the world, Greenpeace is working with retailers and tuna brands across Europe, the Americas and the Pacific to improve their traceability and shift to more sustainable tuna sourcing.