Recent International Events
A recent New Zealand inspection of a Namibian flagged fishing vessel has unearthed the inner workings of one of the major illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) syndicates currently operating – it also showcased the collaborative work of several government agencies.
In May 2008, Fishery Officers inspected the vessel, Paloma V, when it arrived in Auckland to unload its catch of toothfish taken in the waters around Antarctica. As part of the inspection documents from the Paloma V’s computers were copied and it was later found that the vessel was operating as part of a fleet of vessels controlled by a trans-national syndicate involved in IUU fishing. The head of the syndicate was, and still is, on probation after a 2006 conviction in a US court for illegal fishing – following that he was banned from any involvement in the toothfish industry.
The approval to land the fish was then revoked and the vessel left Auckland for Walvis Bay, Namibia. New Zealand then sought to notify the Commission for the Conservation of Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to blacklist the vessel. This was temporarily held up when the vessel owner took MFish and MFAT to the High Court claiming the inspection and copying of the computers was unlawful. The government won this challenge on all five counts and the Paloma V has since been included on the draft IUU list for CCAMLR and will be considered at the next Commission meeting later this year.
Things have gone from bad to worse for the syndicate since the port call. At the time of the notification to CCAMLR another of the vessels, Antillas Reefer, (also a toothfish vessel) was arrested for illegal fishing in Mozambique and faces fines of US$4.5 million, and yet another of their vessels, Galicia, sank off South Africa.
The most recent development in the Paloma V case is the de-registering of the vessel by Namibia. They initially suspended the fishing licence, but in the last couple of weeks they have gone further and stripped the vessel of the Namibian flag. “This case was the success it was due to a tremendous team effort by the MFish compliance, international and legal teams and our colleagues at MFAT and the Crown Law Office. The dedication and commitment shown by the team throughout this case just helped to underscore the professionalism of MFish,” says Compliance Advisor (international) Phillip Kerr.