While industry body Europêche is adamant that European fishing vessels have not been active in Somalian and Indian waters, the Blue Marine Foundation claims that Spanish-flagged tuna vessels fished in the waters of Somalia in 2017-18 and India in 2018-19.
‘The report showing the locations of EU vessels is based on the findings of a study commissioned by Blue Marine Foundation and undertaken by OceanMind – a highly reputable organisation – which in turn was based on publicly-available data reported by the EU and published by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission on its website,’ the Blue Marine Foundation states.
‘Europeche claims that ‘No fishing took place from EU vessels in any coastal state waters without agreement in place.’ We would like to request that Europeche shares with us the access agreements that were in place with Somalia and India when this fishing activity was reported by the EU. There is evidence to suggest that some of these fleets are fishing in coastal states’ waters without any kind of authorisation.’
Europêche’s response is that the AIS systems on which this information is based are open source and easily hacked, in addition to which fishing vessels in this region where piracy remains a major concern frequently switch off AIS, often on the advice of naval forces that patrol waters off the coast of Somalia – while the VMS monitoring every such vessel is fitted with cannot be switched off, but this data is not publicly available.
‘VMS is managed and monitored directly by each country’s administration,’ said Anne-France Mattlet of the Europêche Tuna Group, who suggested that NGOs with concerns should contact the relevant national authorities.
‘You could contact the flag states authorities, that is to say the ministers in charge of fisheries in Spain, France, Seychelles and Mauritius to get confirmation that the vessels flying their flags did not fish in Somalian waters. You could in addition contact the IOTC Secretariat for more information on the data they publish and how to use and interpret them.’