Chapter 8: Fisheries crime
On 6 and 7 January 2015 the Royal New Zealand Navy Patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington located two vessels _ the Songhua and the Kunlun _ in the Southern Ocean, fishing in blatant disregard of the conservation regime in place under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) (INTERPOL 2015a, 2015b). Despite the presence of the New Zealand Navy, the two vessels continued to fish unperturbed, offered incorrect information _ twice _ about their nationality, and refused boarding. A few days later another vessel, the Yongding, was also found fishing in contravention of the CCAMLR (INTERPOL 2015c). This vessel also proclaimed nationalities denied by the purported flag states. Eventually, the three vessels bolted south into the icy waters of the Ross Sea, putting an end to the chase for the time being (McCully 2015a). The Songhua, the Kunlun and the Yongding are all allegedly part of a well-known syndicate quite brazenly exploiting the weak fisheries law enforcement regime of the Southern Ocean (McCully 2015b). They are so-called ‘repeat offenders’ using such well-known techniques as flag hopping, fish laundering, and ports and flags of convenience, engaging in what has become known as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing (INTERPOL 2015a, 2015b, 2015c). In later years, the syndicate has specialized in Patagonian toothfish, a white-fleshed, demersal fish species found in the depths of cold Antarctic waters and worth a considerable amount on the market. More than a decade of rampant exploitation by illegal operators popularized these fish stocks to the extent that the Patagonian toothfish has become a lucrative illicit commodity that is either ‘laundered’ on to the market disguised as other valuable species or as licit produce by means of fraudulent or forged landing documents.
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