An Illegal fishing vessel was detected by a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3K Orion in the Ross Sea on Wednesday during a routine fisheries patrol.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully and Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley expressed alarm that a Togolese-flagged vessel was found catching toothfish in the area managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
On Friday, Heatley announced that NZ has signed a major international agreement aimed at preventing illegally caught fish from being landed in ports.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing puts the sustainability of the profitable toothfish fishery in jeopardy.
The fishing vessel Carmela was utilising deep sea gillnets – which are banned in the CCAMLR Convention Area and can have deleterious effects on non-target marine animals and the ecosystem through ghost fishing by lost or discarded nets.
Carmela is believed to be the former Gold Dragon, a vessel included on CCAMLR's IUU vessel blacklist. New Zealand reported the interception to CCAMLR such that other Commission Members do not allow the vessel to use their ports or allow the import of fish caught by the vessel.
The Ministers lauded the RNZAF personnel involved for identifying the vessel in the enormous ocean.
New Zealand is committed to combating IUU fishing in the CCAMLR convention area, and conducts regular surveillance patrols in support of CCAMLR, which is part of the Antarctic Treaty System.
The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU fishing – which NZ has just signed -- is the first legally binding international treaty focused specifically on this problem. New Zealand is the twelfth signatory and played a central role in the development of the agreement.
Port State measures apply to vessels from the time they request entry to a port until they leave it. They can include provisions that deny vessels port entry and access to non-essential services and provide for vessel inspections.
This is a significant step in the evolution of legally binding rules to combat IUU fishing,” Heatley said. “The scale of the problem internationally is huge and it is in all our interests to eliminate IUU fishing activities. (FIS/MP).-