Thursday February 16, 2023
Start points (turquoise) and end points (yellow) for the AIS transmission gaps of one Spanish-owned tuna vessel, 2019-20. Light blue lines show continuous AIS transmission, red line marks the then-current edge of the Somali HRA. (OceanMind / Blue Marine)
Mogadishu (HOL) - The Blue Marine Foundation has filed a complaint with the UK Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England's Prudential Regulation Authority against three UK insurers, accusing them of providing coverage to fishing vessels that engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by regularly turning off their Automatic Identification System (AIS) while operating in the Indian Ocean. The London-based NGO claims that nearly 50 European Union (EU)-flagged fishing vessels that operate "dark" in the region have been covered by the three insurers.
The complaint is based on a study commissioned by Blue Marine from consultancy OceanMind in 2022, which analyzed the fishing patterns of French- and Spanish-flagged tuna purse seiners in the Western Indian Ocean. The study found
that the use of AIS was significantly absent in relation to the reported areas of catch-effort by these flag-states, indicating that significant fishing activity had been undertaken without its use.
The Blue Marine Foundation has urged insurers to include an analysis of AIS patterns in their due diligence processes to detect impropriety or noncompliance, and to require responsible and consistent use of AIS as a condition of coverage in their contracts. The foundation believes that by insuring vessels that breach AIS laws, the insurers may be indirectly enabling illegal fishing, which can have negative implications for the sustainability of fish stocks in the Indian Ocean, where two out of three tuna fisheries are currently overfished.
In the early 2000s, IUU fishing emerged as a major problem off the coast of Somalia, where foreign fishing fleets began exploiting the country's lack of a functioning government and weak maritime security. The fleets, which mainly originate from Iran, Yemen, and Southeast Asia, engaged in unregulated and often illegal fishing practices, further complicating
the situation in the region. The depletion of fish stocks due to IUU fishing also fueled piracy in the area.
To address the issue, the Somali government has established
a regulatory framework for fishing in its waters, including a national fisheries law and a fisheries management authority. However, the country continues to struggle
with limited resources and ongoing security threats, making it challenging to enforce
regulations and combat IUU fishing.