At-Sea Transfer of Fish in Western and Central Pacific May be Significantly Underreported

Improved monitoring—and compliance with rules—could prevent illegal catch from entering port

At-Sea Transfer of Fish in Western and Central Pacific May be Significantly Underreported
During transshipments, fish and other marine products such as squid are transferred from fishing vessels, like those shown above, to carrier vessels that will deliver the fresh catch to port.
Francisco Blaha

Each day around the world, commercial fishing vessels pull up alongside refrigerated carrier ships to transfer valuable tuna, salmon, crab, and other marine species, which are then taken to shore for processing. Known as transshipment, these transfers help companies move fish to port efficiently, but they often take place in remote parts of the ocean, far from the view and reach of authorities.

A report released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts found evidence that potential lapses in reporting of transshipments to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)—a regional fisheries management organization—may be compromising the body’s ability to prevent illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) catch from reaching port.

To gain better insight into transshipment operations, Pew fed commercially available automatic identification system (AIS) data into a predictive computer algorithm and used the results to analyze the historical movements of carrier vessels operating in WCPFC waters in 2016.  Pew then compared this analysis with publicly available information from the WCPFC and other regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) on transshipments and carrier vessels.

Specifically, many WCPFC flag and coastal States are failing to comply with reporting requirements and/or are using non-standardized reporting responses. The report, “Transshipment in the Western and Central Pacific: Greater understanding and transparency of carrier vessel fleet dynamics would help reform management,” found that only 25 carrier vessels reported high-seas transshipments to the WCPFC’s secretariat in 2016 as required—but at least five times as many potentially transshipped in WCPFC waters or member State ports in 2016.

There is also a strong likelihood that more at-sea transshipment events occurred than were reported to the WCPFC. Pew found that over 1,500 potential transshipment events may have occurred on the high seas, far more than the 956 such events reported by carrier vessels.  Another 703 may have occurred within the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Pacific Island States within the Convention area. Accurate, thorough, and transparent reporting of transshipments is one of the many ways in which fisheries managers track catch and ensure that illegally caught fish are not entering market.

This graphic, developed using AIS data from carrier ships, shows the spatial distribution of the 1,538 transshipments that may have occurred on the high seas in the WCPFC Convention area during 2016. Another 703 transshipments may have occurred within the national waters of small island coastal State members of WCPFC.

Failures in this system also have a significant financial impact on the fishing industry. In fact, a recent study estimated that in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, at least $142 million worth of IUU catch is transshipped each year—with most of it misreported or unreported by licensed fishing vessels.

The findings suggest that, although the technology exists to fully monitor transshipment and associated activities, consistent misreporting and a lack of data sharing among RFMOs is causing significant gaps in their ability to adequately audit and verify information and more easily detect anomalies and possible non-compliance. 

Recommendations

To help ensure comprehensive compliance and data collection, WCPFC should adopt a global set of transshipment best practices, including measures to improve the regulatory framework, significantly strengthen vessel compliance, and promote transparency: 

  • Report all transshipment events, regardless of location or catch, to relevant flag State, coastal State, port State, and RFMO secretariats.
  • Improve monitoring of transshipment activity through increased on-board observer coverage, electronic monitoring systems, and backup systems.
  • Enhance data-sharing agreements (including those related to transshipment information) with RFMOs whose waters overlap with their own. WCPFC and two other RFMOs—the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the North Pacific Fisheries Commission—overlap significantly, illustrating the need for such data sharing.

With continued research, analysis, and action, WCPFC could greatly improve the monitoring and control of transshipment operations and become a model for other RFMOs across the globe. This report provides a blueprint for moving in the right direction.

Mark Young works on fisheries conservation and enforcement efforts for The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Report

Transshipment in the Western and Central Pacific

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Report

The transshipment of catch, which allows fresh fish to get to market sooner, is a vital but largely hidden part of the global commercial fishing industry. Transshipment involves hundreds of refrigerated cargo vessels, or carrier vessels, roaming the oceans, taking in catch from thousands of fishing vessels and transporting it to shore for processing. While transshipment touches a wide range of seafood products, most is made up of bigeye, yellowfin, and skipjack tuna. Salmon, mackerel, and crab also account for a substantial portion of transshipped products.

Issue Brief

报告发现太平洋西部和中部的转运情况可能被低估

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Issue Brief

在全球范围内,每天从远洋捕捞的渔获都要从渔船转移到冷藏货船或运输船,然后运到港口进行加工。由于缺乏这些转移(称为转运)的相关数据,并且对于它们是否符合运作要求往往监管不力,这可能导致非法鱼类产品进入海鲜供应链。

Article

Global Transshipment

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Article

Global Transshipment

Transshipment, the transfer of fish or other marine wildlife between a fishing vessel and a carrier vessel at sea or in port, is an important part of the global commercial fishing industry. Valuable tuna species, mackerel, and crabs are among the freshly caught seafood transshipped each day in order to shorten the time it takes to get the fish from the sea to the store. 

Fact Sheet

实践最佳转运

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Fact Sheet

船舶间的渔获转运对全球商业性捕鱼业起着巨大的作用。每年数以百计的冷藏货轮或运鱼船要从上千万艘渔船上捕获转移新鲜渔获,然后将其运抵海岸进行加工。