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Transshipments in Western, Central Pacific likely underreported, warns Pew

Christian Fernsby |
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s (WCPFC’s) management of transshipments in its waters is compromised by significant gaps in reporting, monitoring, and data sharing, according to a report released by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Topics: TRANSSHIPMENTS   

Transshipment is the transfer of fish from the vessel that caught the fish to a carrier vessel that will deliver the fish to port, an activity that often takes place on the high seas and outside the view and reach of authorities.

While moving catch from one vessel to another may seem innocuous, its largely hidden nature allows unscrupulous fishing vessel operators to obscure, manipulate, or otherwise falsify data on their fishing practices.

This contributes to millions of dollars of illegally caught fish entering the seafood supply chain each year.

To gain better insight into transshipment operations, The Pew Charitable Trusts combined commercially available Automatic Identification System data with the application of machine learning technology to analyze the track histories of carrier vessels operating in WCPFC convention area waters in 2016.

Researchers then compared this analysis with publicly available information on transshipments and carrier vessels.

The resulting 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—but at least five times as many authorized carrier vessels potentially transshipped in port or at sea in WCPFC waters in 2016.

Per the combined analysis of AIS data and publicly available reports to WCPFC, a strong probability exists that more at-sea transshipment events occurred than were reported to the WCPFC by carrier vessels themselves or by relevant flag or coastal State authorities.

Very little information is available on the remaining vessels’ activities.

A study cited in the report estimated that more than USD142 million worth of illegal, unreported, and unregulated catch is transshipped in the western and central Pacific Ocean alone—most of it misreported or not reported by licensed fishing vessels.


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