Oceana Calls For Insurers to Oppose IUU Fishing

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Fish by Maarit Lundback via Flickr

Can the global marine insurance industry aid Oceana in their battle to end illegal fishing?

At an upcoming OECD conference on combating crime in the fisheries sector, Oceana will be launching a project aimed at mobilising the global marine insurance industry in taking action against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Recently published research has revealed that IUU fishing vessel operators are able to purchase insurance coverage for their blacklisted vessels. Astonishingly, the insuring of IUU vessels appears to be fairly common and even high profile – notoriously persistent IUU fishing vessels have been linked to internationally reputable insurance providers. In April of 2015, an Interpol-wanted trawler named ‘The Thunder’ famously and bizarrely sunk off the coast of São Tomé after being chased for 110 days by vessels operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Following the sinking incident, the owner of the Thunder reportedly tried to file an insurance claim for the value of the vessel’s hull, but the claim was declined.

Without insurance, fishing companies may face enormous financial losses should an accident occur. Oceana believes that if insurers change their policies to make it harder for illegal fishers to purchase insurance, less of these fishers will be able to participate in illegal fishing because of the exposure to higher financial risk. Insurers can also help to increase transparency and accountability within the global fishing industry by encouraging the use of vessel tracking devices, unique vessel identification numbers (i.e. IMO numbers), and by discouraging the use of flags of non-compliance (FoNCs).

An estimated 1/3 of the world’s wild-caught fish is caught illegally.

“Oceana always searches for opportunities to develop new and innovative ways of tackling the environmental problems that face our oceans, such as illegal fishing,” explains Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “Looking to the global financial sector, insurers can play an important role in helping to combat illegal fishing.”

Earlier this year, Oceana became a supporting institution to the Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI), an initiative led by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), aimed at promoting environmentally responsible practices within the global insurance sector. As a Supporting Institution, Oceana will participate in organized insurance industry events, promoting the adaptation and implementation of the Principles in the context of addressing IUU fishing.

Oceana is looking for commitments from insurers that they will make procedural or policy changes to ensure that access to insurance is not available to operators of vessels involved in IUU fishing activity. At a minimum, insurers should consult officially verified IUU vessel lists to make certain listed vessels are not granted insurance. Transforming their current role from facilitating illegal fishing to deterring it, insurers can enable the use of marine insurance as an unexpected tool in the global fight against illegal fishing.