Banning transshipment at-sea necessary to curb illegal fishing, researchers conclude

Banning transshipment at-sea—the transfer of fish and supplies from one vessel to another in open waters—is necessary to diminish illegal fishing, a team of researchers has concluded after an analysis of existing maritime regulations.

"This practice often occurs on the high seas and beyond the reach of any nation's jurisdiction, allowing ships fishing illegally to evade most monitoring and enforcement measures, offload their cargo, and resume fishing without returning to port," explains Jennifer Jacquet, an assistant professor in New York University's Department of Environmental Studies and one of the paper's co-authors. "It's one way that illegal are laundered into the seafood market."

"More significantly, transshipment at-sea can facilitate trafficking and exploitation of workers who are trapped and abused on fishing vessels because there is simply no authority present to protect those being exploited," adds Chris Ewell, an NYU undergraduate at the time of the study and the paper's lead author.

The paper, which appears in the journal Marine Policy.

In their study, the researchers focused on the of transshipment, which the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines as the "act of transferring the catch from one fishing vessel to either another fishing vessel or to a vessel used solely for the carriage of cargo."

Specifically, they examined transshipment at-sea regulations across 17 Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs)—multi-national entities responsible for regulating fisheries on the high seas—to create a "scorecard" on the permissibility of this practice around the globe.

The researchers note that transshipment at-sea regulations have become increasingly strict in most RFMOs since the late 1990s. However, in 2015, the year of study, only five RFMOs had mandated even a partial ban and only one RFMO, the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization (SEAFO), has mandated a total ban on transshipment at-sea.

"A total ban on transshipment at-sea on the high seas would support the ability of oversight and enforcement agencies to detect and prevent and also likely reduce human trafficking and forced labor on the high seas," the study's authors recommend.

Explore further

Hidden no more: First-ever global view of transshipment in commercial fishing industry

More information: Christopher Ewell et al, Potential ecological and social benefits of a moratorium on transshipment on the high seas, Marine Policy (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2017.04.004
Journal information: Marine Policy

Citation: Banning transshipment at-sea necessary to curb illegal fishing, researchers conclude (2017, April 18) retrieved 19 October 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 18, 2017
But if you can't transfer some of your excess fish quota to another ship (which is presumably under quota) the only option is to toss the dead fish overboard.
This would increase overfishing as all ships fish up to their quotas.

Fleets need to be satellite networked to enforce overall quotas as there is no point chasing endangered cod or haddock if you only have a tiny quota left to your ship, or any ship you could transfer to.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more