Current loopholes in international law allow a fleet of more than 1,000 large-scale fishing vessels to register under flags of convenience (FOC). The boats are owned in one country but registered in another, thus avoiding fisheries regulations. These Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) or "Pirate" fishing vessels are not only stealing fisheries resources, but also operate with total disregard for the number of seabirds they kill.
The majority of FOC vessels are owned by companies based in the following states: Taiwan, Spain, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, China, and Equatorial Guinea.
It is estimated that over 100,000 birds - including tens of thousands of albatrosses - are being killed each year by pirate fishing vessels in the Southern Ocean. Many of these boats are targeting Patagonian Toothfish, a species often sold and labelled as Chilean Sea Bass, Antarctic Black Hake or Mero.
The illegal fishing industry is large and difficult to police. Fish are sometimes transferred at sea to vessels to be landed in coastal states, for example Mauritius, that are not contracting parties to CCAMLR and its controls. Many developing nations lack the resources to police their waters effectively and prevent illegal vessels from operating.
The United Nations is well aware of the problem of pirate fishing boats, and a Plan of Action to tackle the problem has been drawn up, although its final wording was significantly weakened because of objections from some member states, in particular Mexico.
Bringing the illegal fishing industry under regulation is essential to prevent albatrosses from going extinct. Find out how you can help.
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