Belize bans transhipments of fish at sea

Fish transhipment at sea. © Environmental Justice Foundation  Fish transhipment at sea. © Environmental Justice Foundation

The Belize Fisheries Department has announced a moratorium on unmonitored transhipments of fish at sea for Belize-flagged vessels, effective immediately.

So far, the Belize Fisheries Department has banned transhipments on the high seas for Belize-flagged vessels, unless transhipments are carried out under programs regulated by a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO).

Belize has also banned transhipments at sea in coastal countries’ EEZ, unless the transhipment was explicitly authorised to take place at sea and can be properly monitored.

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has identified Belize-flagged vessels carrying out transhipments at sea on several occasions in the past and welcomes this recent decision.

Global losses due to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing are estimated to be between US $10 billion and US $23.5 billion every year, and transhipment of fish from one vessel to another frequently facilitates the laundering of IUU fish, due to the inability of coastal and flag State authorities to monitor how, by whom and where transferred fish was caught.

On 15 November 2012, the EU Commission warned eight third countries, including Belize, that they risked being identified as non-cooperative in the fight against IUU fishing. This decision to ban unmonitored transhipments at sea could be helpful to the EU Commission in assessing the recent efforts made by the Belize Fisheries Department to monitor its vessels.

EJF is calling for all coastal States in West Africa to ban transhipment at sea and work with neighbouring countries and international partners to effectively control their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). It is also encouraging the flag States of fishing vessels and reefers to restrict them from carrying out transhipments at sea, and is calling on Belize to go one step further and implement a complete ban on transhipment at sea in West Africa.

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