October 11, 2012 - 11:34 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The vast majority of pirate vessels illegally fishing off Sierra Leone are accredited to export their catches to Europe, an environmentalist group says, according to BBC.
A report by the Environmental Justice Foundation says West Africa has the highest levels of illegal fishing in the world. It says pirate fishermen fish inside exclusion zones, attack local fisherman and refuse to pay fines.
The UK-based charity has called for such vessels to be blacklisted. It urges that weaknesses in EU regulations be addressed to stop illegal fish entering Europe.
"The EU is relying too heavily on the assurances of flag states that plainly are not monitoring their fishing fleets in West Africa," said EJF Executive Director Steve Trent.
"Authorities inspecting fish in European ports have very little reliable information on what is happening in the areas where it is caught. We must urgently improve communication between the EU and coastal States if we are serious about ending pirate fishing and protecting some of the world's most vulnerable coastal communities."
The EJF's 36-page report - entitled Exposing Pirate Fishing: The Fight Against Illegal Fishing in West Africa and the EU - documents "rampant pirate fishing in Sierra Leone and laundering of the illegal catch into the European seafood market by vessels accredited to export fish to the EU".
"Despite the EU regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, evidence collected on 10 vessels believed to account for the majority of reports revealed that nine are accredited to export their catches to the EU, the world's most valuable import market for fish," says the report.
West African waters have the highest levels of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the world, says the report, representing up to 37% of the region's catch.
It reported 252 cases of illegal pirate fishing by industrial vessels in inshore areas over an 18-month period.
In addition, the EJF said 90% of the pirate vessels it investigated in West Africa were bottom trawlers "which devastate marine environments by dragging heavy trawl equipment along the seabed".
Global losses from pirate fishing were estimated to amount to $10-$23.5bn (£6-15bn) each year, said the EJF said.