More Than One-Third Of Pacific Fishing Illegal: Interpol

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Profits could be used for ‘substantial’ development in Pacific

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 28, 2013) – International criminal police organization Interpol has held its first ever meeting to address illegal fishing, in a bid to curtail the multi-billion dollar black market.

The organization’s Environmental Crime Program established an illegal fishing unit to help countries deal with fish piracy and to monitor and disrupt criminal activities.

The Pacific Ocean is a hotbed of illegal fishing, and Greenpeace's Pacific Oceans Campaigner, Nathaniel Pelle, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that governments need to work with Interpol to reduce the impact of illegal fishing.

"Best estimates are that as much as a third or even a bit over of the fishing that goes on in the Pacific region is illegal or unreported, and that's a real tragedy for Pacific island fishermen and it's a tragedy for the species that are in this area," he said.

Mr. Pelle said it is estimated that illegal fishing costs the Pacific region as much as $2 billion each year.

"That amount of money leaving the Pacific region could add substantially to development in the area," he said.

"The west and central Pacific is a vast expanse of ocean... and the very limited capacity of the Pacific island countries to police their waters is a huge problem.

Mr. Pelle says Greenpeace would like to see Interpol provide some guidance around the world with a registry of vessels that have engaged in illegal fishing.

"Unfortunately you know you can conduct illegal fishing and then often the country will simply pay a fine and then that's the end of it," he said.

In addition to fish poaching in the open ocean, many of the Pacific's inshore areas are being exposed to unsustainable fishing.

Head of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's Coastal Fisheries Program, Lindsay Chapman, told Pacific Beat that invertebrate species such as the sea cucumber, or beche-de-mer were being seriously affected.

"They have been fished down to very low levels and there is concern about recruitment or the animals being able to reproduce given the very low numbers," he said.

Mr. Chapman said giant clams and trochus had also been fished out in many areas.

"People are having to go further to catch the crabs and other seafood so it's a serious problem across the region."

The Interpol meeting was held in Lyon, France, from February 26 to 28.

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