Author: Liam Fox, Pacific affairs reporter
Nauru’s government has announced a ban on all transhipments, a controversial practice linked to illegal and unsustainable fishing at sea.
Transhipments involve smaller boats transferring their catches to bigger vessels, or mother ships, allowing them to fish for longer periods without coming into port.
The ban comes after Greenpeace claimed to have uncovered an “illegal operation” by Taiwanese ship Shuen De Ching No.888 near Papua New Guinea last week.
The activist group allegedly found 75 kilograms of shark fins from at least 42 shark carcasses, though only three carcasses had been recorded in the ship’s log.
Greenpeace passed its information onto the Nauru Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority (NFMRA), which has responded with a blanket ban on all shipments in its waters.
In a statement, the NFMRA said the move would help to “end the laundering of fish” and bring huge economic benefits to the Nauruan people.
“As one of the countries that border the high seas we regularly observe longliners acting suspiciously and intruding on our waters,” it said.
“These seas act like a safe haven for pirate boats and transhipment allows them to stay at sea even longer and launder fish out of the area.”
Greenpeace welcomed Nauru’s ban, but said it should be extended to the entire region if overfishing is to be successfully stopped.
“If fishing vessels had to go to land to transfer their catch, it would solve many of the problems out here in the Pacific,” Greenpeace campaigner Lagi Toribau said.
“Although more than 70 per cent of the world’s tuna comes from the Pacific, only 20 per cent of that is actually caught by Pacific island fleets.”
Pacific nations like Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Vanuatu and Samoa only ban foreign vessels from carrying out transhipments.
Fiji, Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Cook Islands allow the practice but only with government authorisation.
Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency said the Shuen De Ching was unlawfully boarded by Greenpeace but promised to look into the illegal fishing allegations.