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Pirate trawlers rob the sea

Identity-less trawlers today carry extensive pirate fishing on the Reykjanes Ridge south of Iceland.


By Jógvan H. Gardar

[poaching] A pirate fleet of at least eight trawlers is currently fishing illegally on the Reykjanes Ridge, in the sea south of Iceland. In mid-March, Iceland tried to prevent several of the same trawlers from leaving the ports of the German city of Rostock. The boats have been blacklisted by Norway and the EU for several years.

Without shame, the pirate trawlers mingle with the legal trawls out on the open international sea. In recent weeks, up to 70 trawlers have been fishing in the area. Thus, between eight and twelve of these are pirate trawlers. Several are missing names, and they do not have the characteristics all boats are obliged to have. The trawlers have neither quotas nor legal licenses to fish. The consequences of uncontrolled fishing are that the stock is destroyed.

The Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), of which Norway is a member, is working to put an end to illegal fishing.

- The NEAFC countries have recently committed themselves to refusing these trawlers to come into port and the trawlers also do not have the opportunity to deliver fish in these ports, says Kjartan Hoydal, head of the secretariat in London.

Kjartan Hoydal informs Ny Tid that the German authorities considered the case so that they could not refuse the five trawlers to leave Rostock. The Fisheries Commission has since tightened the rules, so that trawlers can not set course for an EU port again.

Truls Gulowsen in Greenpeace tells Ny Tid that the NEAFC ban does not work as intended, and that these trawlers get their fish delivered to European ports. In 2005, the Russian freezer boat "Sunny Jane" succeeded in getting redfish delivered in the Moroccan city of Agadir after first making an attempt in Germany and Scotland.

The eight trawlers are currently under the Georgian flag, but have previously been registered in both the Central American states of Belize and Dominica and in Russia. The trawlers lost the Dominica flag in September 2005 because of their piracy activities.

Sonny Johannesen, skipper of the Faroese trawler "Enniberg", has been fishing in the area for several years.

He tells Ny Tid that these trawlers have only shown interest in Reykjanesryggen in the last two years.

- We do not know who they are, but we recognize several of them as former Russian trawlers, says Johannesen. He calls for stricter control of fishing in this area.

Control of the Reykjanes Ridge is handled by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (Nafo) and NEAFC countries. In practice, it is the EU countries that together with Iceland and Canada are in charge.

In recent weeks, a Spanish coastguard vessel has been on the Reykjanes Ridge, and before that an Icelandic vessel patrolled the waters. Iceland sends regular surveillance aircraft to the area.

The Coast Guard vessels regularly request permission to board the identityless trawlers.

- They are almost always rejected. The captains claim that they are not allowed by the shipowner to let anyone come on board, says Sonny Johannesen, who can follow all communication in the area on his radio connection.

Kjartan Hoydal says the trawlers who do not come from a NEAFC country can refuse to be inspected, but they immediately end up on the Fisheries Commission's blacklist.

pirate trawlers

  • A number of Georgian fishing boats without quotas were observed on the Reykjanes Ridge earlier this week.
  • The boats carry names like "Ulla", "Rosita", "Isabella", "Juanita", "Carmen", "Eva", "Pavlovsk" and "Dolphin".
  • NEAFC (The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission) has an office in London and regulates, among other things, fishing for hake and redfish in the eastern Atlantic. Members today are Denmark (on behalf of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), the EU, Norway, Russia, Estonia and Iceland.
  • Nafo (North Atlantic Fisheries Organization) regulates fishing in the western Atlantic and is based in Canada. The organization currently has 13 member countries from Central and North America, Europe and Asia.

(Sources: Enniberg, Greenpeace, NEAFC and NATO)

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