Fish Radio

Pirate fishing comes under fire from more countries

October 15, 2015

Pirate F/V Thunder scuttled after being busted by Spain. Credit:

Pirate F/V Thunder scuttled after being busted by Spain.

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch. Fish pirates come under fire from more countries. More after this –

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Fish pirates are coming under fire as more countries band together to stop them from pilfering the world’s oceans. So called Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing accounts for one-fifth of  global removals, valued at nearly $25 billion each year, according to the Global Ocean Commission.

Notably, it means a big  break for Bering Sea crab – the poster child for getting whacked by pirate fishery.

For decades, Alaska crabbers have competed against IUU caught crab by Russian fleets, which  cornered 40 percent of the world market in 2012. US trade data show the Russian crab poundage at nearly 100 million pounds just two year ago.

But that’s set to change. Last month, at the annual Intergovernmental Consultative Committee meeting in Portland, Oregon, and after years in the making, the US and Russia signed a bilateral agreement to combat IUU fishing.

Mark Gleason, director of the trade group Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, was thrilled with the agreement.

The fact that there has been a formal acknowledgement between the US and Russia that illegal fishing is a problem and it is an issue that is worthy of cooperation between our two countries. That is unprecedented, and it is a very welcome change.

 Gleason says it’s hard to put a number on fishing losses from the criminal activity –

We estimate since 2000 illegal Russian crab has cost the US Bering Sea fleet about $600 million in lost  revenues – and have to think about the implications for fishing dependent communities in Alaska.

 If we’ve lost that much in revenue because of decreased exvessel prices, then obviously the communities have also lost millions in taxes and landing revenues. So it’s not just an issue that impacts crab harvesters, it hurts communities, the State of Alaska and frankly, it impacts the legal Russian producers.

   They feel the pinch too. The legal guys in Russia are competing in the same markets and competing against illegal crab as well. So there’s a lot of pain to go around.

Next year’s ICC meeting in Russia will focus on getting new methods operational. They can be used as a framework for stopping other pirated fisheries as well.

The US/Russia agreement follows on the heels of the Presidential Task Force recommendations on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud.

An international Port State Measures Agreement that would cut off markets from fish pirates also is awaiting a nod from Congress.

And in an IUU victory, this week a Spanish court doled out three years in jail and a $17 million fine to tooth fish pirates from Chile aboard the F/V Thunder.


Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods.  Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America.   In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.