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Several NGOs are demanding the implementation of firmer measures to prevent illegally caught fish from entering the market.

NGOs criticize the government for 'mishandling' illegal fishing case in Antarctic waters

  (SOUTH KOREA, 2/9/2019)

A group of non-governmental organizations denounces that the South Korea Government did not sanction two vessels that fished illegally in Antarctic waters, and instead allowed its owner to sell the catches in the world market of seafood products.

International and Korean NGOs issued a joint statement condemning the Korean government for mishandling this case of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. They claim that despite promising international partners that the two vessels would be sanctioned, the Korean government stopped their prosecution.


The Korean longliner fishing vessels Southern Ocean and Hong-Jin 701, both owned by the Hong-Jin company


The NGOs, including the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), the Citizen's Institutes for Environmental Studies (CIES) and the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM), call for the implementation of stronger measures that can prevent illegally caught fish entering the market, and the establishment of a fish traceability system to prevent similar cases.

The NGOs remind that in December 2017, the Korean distant water fishing vessels Southern Ocean and Hong-Jin 701, both owned by the Hong-Jin company, violated conservation measures of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

The vessels fished illegally over the course of four days, and caught 70 tonnes of toothfish, despite receiving a closure notification from the CCAMLR secretariat.

The NGOs say that the South Korean government had promised to guarantee that the operator did not receive any financial benefit and issued a 60-day commercial suspension that prohibited vessels from fishing. But they emphasize that this suspension was applied during a closure period in CCAMLR, which means that it had little or no impact on the operator.

In addition, they maintain that despite the guarantees to international partners, the illegal capture was returned to the operator of the vessels who sold it for more than USD 800,000. And they emphasize that, aside from these failed sanctions, the Korean Prosecutor's Office did not proceed with the criminal prosecution of the case.

Patagonian ttoothfish or Mero chileno or black hake (Dissostichus eleginoides) is a species of notothen found in cold waters (1–4 °C or 34–39 °F) between depths of 45 and 3,850 m (150 and 12,630 ft) in the southern Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans and Southern Ocean on seamounts and continental shelves around most Subantarctic islands.

EJF also notes that CCAMLR officially classified the two vessels at "Level of non-compliance 3", which implies a "serious, frequent or persistent" non-compliance. This warning can be followed by a ban on vessels fishing in the CCAMLR area.

“Contrary to what the Korean government announced internationally, Korean officials allowed the IUU-caught fish to enter not only Korea but also the international market. Even worse, the government is claiming that they are not aware of its destination. This incident reveals how legal loopholes and un-transparent fishery governance can be exploited,” the NGOs say.

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