After years of investigations by non-governmental organization Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), the government of Oman has removed the ISRAR fleet from its registry of fishing vessels due to its alleged involvement in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The delisting was supported by EJF’s documentation of the fleet’s illegal fishing activities with Omani state officials, which found "the documentation submitted by owners about the previous history of the vessels was not satisfactory, together with all other evidence collected by all the fisheries departments involved."
“The fleet did everything it could to avoid detection, including switching the flags it was sailing under; sailing under no flag at all for some time, which is itself illegal; changing vessel IDs while at sea; and making secretive transfers of crew, supplies. and fish out on the ocean, a practice known as transshipment,” EJF said.
This isn’t the first time the fleet has been caught and blacklisted. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas blacklisted the fleet in 2021, and it was subsequently dropped from its insurance coverage. Then, in May, it was blacklisted by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, once again as the result of an investigation by the EJF.
The NGO said this time the ISRAR was only caught “due to a fortuitous observation of their movement patterns, which EJF’s investigators noticed appeared suspicious before launching a painstaking investigation into the fleet.”
The investigation involved authorities from eight nations across multiple continents, fisheries management organizations, the European Commission, and Interpol.
The fleet has now been delisted by Oman and blacklisted by fisheries management authorities, meaning it should be unable to sell its catch and will be dropped by its insurers. The ISRAR fleet's ownership will now have to look elsewhere for flags and permits for their vessels. EJF said it will continue to track ISRAR vessels as they move around the globe.
“Oman’s government should be applauded for taking a stand against illegal fishing, and other governments must not let this fleet register with them to recommence their destruction of our precious ocean,” EJF said.
EJF Chief Operations Officer Max Schmid applauded Oman “for their decision following our years of painstaking investigations into the ISRAR fleet.” He said EJF hopes Oman will be part of a larger movement to put an end to illegal fishing, and that more governments take the same step to ban such vessels.
“However, while this is a major step forward, it is still just three fishing vessels, and ending illegal fishing globally through multi-year investigations like this would be impossible,” EJF said. “That’s why we urgently need a systemic shift towards transparency in fisheries everywhere.”
Photo courtesy of the Environmental Justice Foundation