Insurers Must Stop Insuring Illegal Fishing Vessels: UBC Research

June 7, 2016

Rogue fishing vessels are able to secure insurance even after they have been red-flagged by international watchdogs for unlawful activity, according to research published by the University of British Columbia.

“Restricting access to insurance could play a major role in ending illegal fishing, and right now, it’s a largely overlooked method,” said lead author Dana Miller, who studied illegal fishing and insurance while she was a postdoctoral fellow at UBC.

Illegal fishing costs the global economy an estimated $10 to 20 billion annually, and causes millions of tons of fish to disappear from the oceans, making it harder for law-abiding companies to fish, said the UBC in a statement.

To prevent illegal vessels from obtaining insurance, the research recommended checking lists of known illegal vessels before issuing insurance.

These lists include regional fisheries management organizations’ Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) vessel lists, and the list of vessels that INTERPOL has issued Purple Notices for, seeking information on their activities, associations, and whereabouts, the research said.

“This approach is a much less expensive way to prevent illegal fishing than traditional methods,” said co-author Rashid Sumaila, the project director of OceanCanada and a professor in the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.

Efforts to combat illegal fishing often focus on monitoring and surveillance, through the use of satellite tracking and inspections. “However, the insurance industry has largely been left out of the discussion, even though they may have the ability to make a significant impact on the number of illegal vessels by refusing insurance,” said the UBC.

Miller and her colleagues at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries investigated insurance information for 94 IUU fishing vessels and 837 legal vessels that were required, by international law, to have insurance because of their size.

“They identified the insurers of 48 percent of the illegal vessels and 58 percent of the legal vessels and often the same companies provided insurance to both illegal and legal fishing vessels,” said the UBC.

The research revealed that some of the most notorious illegal fishing vessels were found to have insurance coverage, such as the Bandit 6, a fleet of six fishing vessels wanted for illegally taking Patagonian tooth fish from southern waters.

The Bandit 6 vessels were recently caught in different regions of the world after being on internationally recognized lists like the European Union’s IUU vessel list for years, the research said.

“It was shocking when we found that out,” said Miller. “Insurers should take the simple step of consulting IUU fishing vessel lists to make sure that these notorious and well-known ships are refused insurance.”

The authors also recommend that insurers mandate that all vessels over a certain size be assigned an International Maritime Organization ship identification number, and operate satellite automatic identification vessel tracking technology. These measures would tighten regulation and increase transparency.

The UBC study, titled “Cutting a lifeline to maritime crime: marine insurance and IUU fishing” was published this week in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Source: University of British Columbia

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