Serving up illegally-caught fish
The amount of fishing that actually takes place is actually being under-reported; so much so that about a fifth of the fish stocks worldwide comes from illegal fishing. Such fish stocks – called illegal, unregulated or undocumented (IUU) – can actually make their way to your dinner plate. This revelation has emerged as a result of a federal government response to an inquiry from the parliamentary group “DIE LINKE“.
Although there are catch permits certifying that the fish being imported into the EU had been caught legally, the system is not perfect. The WWF considers the inspection of such permits going into Germany to be inadequate, as only a third of the 45,000 import permits are checked.
Catherine Zucco, fisheries expert at WWF, said that less than half of the catch permits are being checked by the German authorities, so there is a possibility that their fish counters are serving as the trading points for the illegal fish catches. According to the federal government, although 31,500 to 36,000 of the annual incoming catch permits are classified as risk cases, only 15,000 of them are being checked.
For the imports that are logged in on weekends and at night, the catch permits are checked only at random, according to the Federal Government. Only five officials are put in charge of these inspections at the Federal Institute for Agriculture and Food here, compared to the 19 officials who have been assigned the same responsibility for the same number of imports in Spain.
For the WWF, the German issue begins with how “risk” is defined. Current EU regulations list 15 criteria to be considered when deciding whether a specific fish stock comes from IUU fishing. This include so-called “flags of convenience” from states that are unable or unwilling to control their fishing vessels, IUU concerns in the vessel's or operator's history or whether there are discrepancies between the quantities landed and the quantities being imported.
© 2008 Ra Boe (Wikipedia, License CC BY-SA 3.0)
For Germany, such multiple criteria does not matter. It limits its evaluation too simply: if there are several transhipment of catches, the risk of illegal activity would be higher. This is particularly true for container imports; the Federal Government actually classifies 70 to 80 percent of such fish imports as a risk factor.
The federal authorities impose the European regulations to prevent illegally caught fish from reaching the market, but this has limited effect. The controls imposed are in no way proportional to the amount of fish derived from illegal fishing. The consumer has no way of knowing whether the fish sold at the market had been caught illegally, said Zucco.
WWF calls on the Federal Government to boost the resources of the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE), to ensure that import controls are aligned closer to the risk factors and to promote the establishment of an EU-wide database of electronic catch permits. So far, the EU requires only paper-based fishing permits, which are prone to counterfeiting.
Further Information: www.wwf.de