Wednesday, June 30th 2004 - 21:00 UTC

Fisheries News.

Headlines:
French catch Patagonian toothfish poacher; Argentina: Concern with Patagonian toothfish stock; Albatross petition calls for an end to pirate vessels.

French catch Patagonian toothfish poacher.

South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism reported the capture of an illegal fishing vessel, "Apache", caught poaching Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean. The vessel seized by a French naval ship on Friday June 25 was found operating almost 6,000km away from South Africa's southeast. The illegal vessel is now being towed to the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion where she will undergo an investigation by French authorities, reports The Independent. Details as to the origin of the illegal vessel and the nationality of its crew have still not been released to the Department. According to the head of South Africa's law enforcement at Marine and Coastal Management, Marcel Kroese, the vessel, which did not have any permits to fish in that area, only began to cooperate with the South African and French officials onboard the patrol vessel after warning shots were fired. According to a spokesperson from the Department, Carol Moses, this is the latest in a series of attempts to poach this valuable resource. Patagonian toothfish is a highly prized species that is commercialised as Chilean sea bass on the lucrative United States market. Because of over-fishing and a flourishing illegal trade in this species, however, population levels are at an all-time low. Floundering numbers have failed to put off poachers, however, who can earn up to USD 2 million per shipload of the species. According to COLTO, "Apache" was previously named "Caroline Glacial" and "America No. 1". Built in January 1997 by Stocznia Polnacna SA in Gdansk and West Contractors AS in Olensvaag, as the Caroline Glacial she was owned by Crown Hill Chartering AS and Glacial Shipping S.A. (1998) and flagged to Panama. Caroline Glacial was identified landing toothfish in Mauritius in February 1998, operating as part of a fleet of four vessels, including the Christina Glacial, Alida Glacial and Aliza Glacial (which had been arrested by Australian authorities in 1997). All four vessels were owned and operated by Norwegian hotelier, Magna Hisdal. The Caroline, Cristina and Alida Glacials were then redeployed to Russian waters, abandoned to the Bergensbanken and sold in Pusan in 2003. The three boats were bought by Harald Kongshavn's company, Longliners AS. Seaport Management Services LCC (Seaport) bought the Caroline Glacial and Christina Glacial in June 2003, and renamed them the America No. 1 and the American Warrior. They were flagged to the USA, with Seattle as their home port. Seaport is an affiliate of Californian Company, Pac Fish Inc (Pac Fish). In September 2003, the America No. 1 arrived in Santa Eugenia de Riveira, Spain after dry-docking. In late October 2003, the vessel was seen in waters south of Argentina. On November 3rd, she reached the FV Galaecia (19 miles from CCAMLR Area 48.1) and transferred fuel and 20 tonnes of bait to the Spanish flagged vessel. America No. 1 arrived in Dunedin on February 15, 2004, after its maiden Antarctic voyage fishing in the Ross Sea. On arrival, 15 Indonesian crewmembers on the vessel requested assistance from the International Transport Federation. The vessel was last seen in April 2004 in the port of Montevideo, Uruguay, where the boat was renamed "Apache" and is currently flagged to Honduras. The "owners" are claimed to be Staplefield Investments from Panama. (FIS/COLTO/MP).-

Concern with Patagonian toothfish stock.

The current situation of the Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) biomass has forced the Argentina Federal Fishery Council (CFP) to extend the total allowable catch (TAC) of 800 tonnes, initially set for the months of April, May and June, until next 31 July. CFP resolution is based on results published in a report by the National Institute of Research and Fishery Development (INIDEP), which indicates a "decline in the abundance of total reproductive biomass for Patagonian toothfish." The report convinced INIDEP scientists to propose that the strict monitoring of the fishery biomass, underway since the end of 2002, be continued. Official Argentine statistics show that the total catch of Patagonian toothfish in 2003 was the lowest in the past six years, amounting to 5,652 tonnes, way below the 9,972 tonnes landed in 1998 and the 8,164 tonnes registered in 2002. INIDEPs recommendations include real-time monitoring of the fishery and control over port landings, "for having proven useful tools towards pursuing a sustainable fishery in the Argentine Sea," as indicated in Resolution Nº 12/2004 of the CFP. Sometime ago the Advisory Commission for the Monitoring of Patagonian Toothfish Fishing Activities created in May 2002, before deciding on a management plan for the species, expressed concern and requested CFP to postpone current regulation until the latest technical reports from INIDEP was available. The concern seems to have been shared by the CFP since recently further controls were enforced for the protection of Patagonian toothfish juveniles. (FIS/MP).-

Albatross petition calls for an end to pirate vessels.

A 100,000-signature petition, organised by Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand on behalf of the BirdLife International Save the Albatross campaign, has been presented to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) during a recent meeting in Rome. The petition, which was presented by round-the-world sailors from the UK Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), includes signatures New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, as well as The Prince of Wales, reports Scoop. According to the conservation director of Forest and Bird, Kevin Hackwell, the petition, signed by more than 105,000 people, one for every albatross killed by longliners each year, calls for urgent action to save these birds from extinction. Mr. Hackwell claims that many of the vessels that are responsible for killing albatrosses are pirate ships, sailing under flags of convenience. This new petition, however, calls on the UN to outlaw so-called flag of convenience fishing vessels and deny them access to markets and ports; to ratify legally binding agreements, including the UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels; and to fund and resource efforts to catch and prosecute pirate vessels. According to Dr Euan Dunn, the Head of Marine Policy at the RSPB, this petition sends a powerful message that society will no longer stand by and let pirate fishing destroy nature and the environment, and that people demand authorities to take decisive action to put an end to this practice. He believes that it is about time that the UN place pressure on those countries harbouring pirate fishing vessels, including Taiwan, Spain, Panama, Singapore, South Korean, Japan, and China, to cease such destructive activities. (FIS)

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