Greenpeace boards tuna vessel, alleges illegal shark finning

Published on
September 11, 2015

Greenpeace has reportedly stumbled upon a Taiwanese longline tuna vessel fishing without the proper permissions in waters neighboring Papua New Guinea.

Intent on investigating overfishing in the region, Greenpeace activists on board the Rainbow Warrior II spotted the alleged pirate vessel while scouring the Pacific Ocean and suspected that the ship was fishing without a license. Greenpeace said that its initial inquiries to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency regarding the vessel did not yield a name or radio call sign matching that of the Shuen De Ching No. 888, the vessel in question.

“Prior to us getting on board the vessel, we were able to get official confirmation from the relevant authorities in this region that this vessel did not have authorization,” said Greenpeace campaigner Lagi Toribau to The Guardian

When Greenpeace members boarded the ship on 9 September, they allegedly uncovered discrepancies in the vessel’s tuna log book as well as sacks containing 75 kilograms of shark fins from what was speculated to be about 42 sharks. Only three full shark carcasses were found on board the ship, according to the NGO. Per Taiwanese law, shark fins aren’t allowed to exceed 5 percent of the weight of the shark catch. The NGO said it measured three metric tons of fish on the vessel caught over a two month timespan.

Greenpeace said it alerted Taiwan’s fishing agency as well as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) about the vessel, which is currently authorized under the WCPFC Record of Fishing Vessels – Greenpeace believes the paperwork was filled out retroactively, after the NGO filed its complaint.

According to the Fisheries Bureau, the Shuen De Ching No. 888 had received the proper authorizations to fish. The bureau claims that Greenpeace violated international law by boarding the ship without prior authorization from the Republic of China. A spokesperson for the bureau told Focus Taiwan that the operator of the Shuen De Ching No. 888 sent out an application to the secretariat of the WCPFC on 22 May and received a reply the same day. The vessel was under the supervision of the WCPFC secretariat, which found it to be operating legally in the Western and Central Pacific region, the spokesperson added.

The Fisheries Bureau intends to conduct an investigation into Greenpeace’s allegations that the vessel’s crew removed sharks’ fins and then dumped their bodies into the water. To combat such a practice, the bureau makes periodic spot checks at fishing ports, according Focus Taiwan – upwards of 3,000 checks of this kind have be carried out since 2012, said the bureau’s spokesperson.

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