Taiwanese ship found with ‘illegal’ shark fins

Port Moresby, September 10

Greenpeace said today it boarded a Taiwanese ship allegedly operating illegally near Papua New Guinea, fishing for tuna and carrying bags of shark fins in what could be the latest example of the lucrative black trade in the region.

The move by the activist group yesterday night came as regional leaders met in Port Moresby for the Pacific Islands Forum and worked on a sustainable fisheries roadmap.

Global seas have been fished to dangerously low levels, according to independent panel the Global Ocean Commission, hitting fishing-dependent countries, such as in the Pacific where the multi-billion dollar tuna trade is an economic lifeline for some.

“It shows the extent to which illegal fishing is out of control in the high seas, and that more needs to be done to help Pacific nations with enforcement,” Lagi Toribau of Greenpeace Australia Pacific said in a statement.

Greenpeace said the Shuen De Ching No 888, reportedly a Taiwanese-flagged tuna longliner, was operating in international waters near PNG when activists boarded it.

The group said it discovered 75 kg shark fins on the vessel, taken from at least 42 shark carcasses — though only three carcasses had been recorded in the ship’s log.

Suspected poaching vessels that ply the high seas, which fall beyond national jurisdictions, have challenged efforts to clamp down on illegal fishing as they suffer from a lack of oversight, the commission has said.

The group claimed the vessel had no fishing licence and had been reported to the Taiwan’s fishery agency. “The Taiwanese government must order this illegal vessel to stop fishing and return to port immediately for a full and transparent investigation,” Toribau added.

But Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency said the boat was licensed and rebuked Greenpeace for boarding a Taiwanese vessel without permission from the government.

The agency said the move “breached Taiwan’s jurisdiction and international laws”, though promised a “further investigation” into claims the longliner was fishing illegally.