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Mar 28, 2006

After witnessing fish being stolen from one of the poorest regions on the world, Greenpeace and the Environmental Justice Foundation, in cooperation with enforcement authorities from Guinea(West Africa), are preparing to arrest pirate-fishing vessels that are laundering their cargo through European(EU) ports, a statement from Greenpeace states.

In a joint operation on board the Greenpeace ship M.Y Esperanza the environmental and human rights organisations have been operating undercover documenting nearly 70 vessels in West African waters for the past ten days.

Of 67 foreign flagged vessels, from Korea, China, Italy, Liberia and Belize - 19 (28%) are not authorised to fish, 22 (32%) are known to have a history of pirate fishing, 9(14%) had hidden names and 8 (12%) were inside 12 mile limit - waters reserved for local fishermen only. In the shadowy world of pirate fishing, the illegal catch is then transferred to refrigerated ships - reefers - many of which sail straight into the heart of Europe and the port of Las Palmas.

Two Guinean enforcement officials, with powers of arrest, have now joined the Esperanza, which will continue to carry outsurveillance operations in the region.

"Pirate fishing is a global threat to the oceans and those who depend upon them. We hear fine words from governments about tackling the problem - but if they were serious then we wouldn't need to be here and offer our ship to the Guinea authorities," said Sarah Duthie, Greenpeace Oceans campaigner on board the Esperanza. "The first thing that must be done is to close ports to pirate fishing boats, deny them access to markets and ensure that companies are prosecuted." West Africa is the only region in the world where fish consumption is falling. Local fishermen are losing much needed income and sometimes even their lives as they struggle to compete with the foreign trawlers illegally coming into their waters. The Guinean authorities have virtually no capacity to combat the fish pirates, who sometimes come within a couple of miles from the shore.

"It is complete hypocrisy for governments to talk about encouraging aid to Africa at the same time as allowing the food and income they need to be stolen from their waters and sold in the markets of Europe," said Helene Bours, of the Environmental Justice Foundation. "It is a pattern that is repeated globally and is the responsibility of all nations to act to make piracy history." Internationally, pirate fishing is worth between US$4 billion and US$9 billion a year - 20% of the total fish catch. Pirate fishing takes place every day, in every ocean. It is estimated that just in sub-Saharan Africa it nets US$1 billion dollars annually, while in the waters of the Southern Ocean, up to 50% of the valuable Patagonian tooth fish may come from illegal activities. In the Baltic Sea, 40% of the cod caught in 2002/2003 was estimated to have been illegal
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Posted: Tuesday March 28, 2006, 11:02 am
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MBele k.
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