Foreign fleet owners reward illegal fishing: CP

Foreign fleet owners reward illegal fishing: CP

ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. — As Canada tries to stem illegal fishing in international waters off the East Coast, the captains and officers of some foreign vessels receive cash rewards for those illicit catches, according to internal fisheries documents.

Cash incentives offered by fleet owners encourage fishing of lucrative moratorium species and the possible penalties for getting caught aren’t enough to deter it, say briefing notes provided last year to the director general of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

“Captains and officers operate under attractive performance-based contracts which can handsomely reward illegal catch,” according to the notes obtained by The Canadian Press under Access to Information legislation.

“Penalties for those vessels and masters which are caught cheating are relatively minor in comparison to the potential rewards.”

The average fine for ship masters found guilty in their home countries of illegal fishing _ and there are few — is 3,000 Euros, or about $4,800.

“In some cases, the company or vessel owner will pay fines on behalf of the officers,” the report says.

Yet regulations make it difficult to identify the owners benefiting from illegal fishing, it says.

Fishing at the levels officially reported by foreign fleets in international waters controlled by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization is not economically viable, notes the report.

“The foreign vessels in the (NAFO area) are not viable at the reported catch rates of 1.5 tonne per day, and require moratoria species to be viable on a trip and annual basis,” says the report.

It’s a practice seen around the world, said Nadia Bouffard, director of the Atlantic division’s international directorate.

“Usually companies will pay captains, and in some cases they will pay the crew members, based on the profits obtained from the fishery,” Bouffard said.

“So it’s an incentive to catch more fish but it’s also, as far as we’re concerned, an incentive to cheat because many times the illegal fish will be worth more on the market and, therefore, illegally fishing will bring more revenues.”

Experts believe unreported harvesting accounts for 30 per cent or more of the fishing around the world

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