If the thought of shipping Newfoundland fish to China for processing wasn’t hard enough to get your head around, Ocean Choice International recently chartered a Spanish “pirate” trawler to catch its turbot quota on the Grand Banks.
That’s how far the fishery has fallen.
The trawler’s name was the Festeiro, and her captain was issued two NAFO citations in 2006 (make sure to scroll down) for directed fishing for a moratoria species and for failing to accurately record catch.
The St. John’s-Telegram mentioned the Festeiro in a 2008 front-page story, Vigo, Europe’s pirate port.
The story was about how Vigo is “often associated with some of the most notorious fishing pirates ever to reap the bounty of the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks.”
The reporter was rewarded by just walking to the wharf:
“An extended walk around the vast harbour immediately turns up a few other familiar ships from the past: the Festeiro, a Spanish vessel busted in March 2006 for fishing moratoria species and not accurately recording its catch. The Santa Cristina, a Portuguese boat last nabbed in 2005 for having small mesh in its net. The Russian ship Matrioska, which was sent home in 2005 after being issued a pair of citations for misrecording catches and failing to label shrimp correctly.”
So why did OCI hire a Spanish trawler?
Here’s the response my office received from Loyola Sullivan, former MHA and senior cabinet minister, former leader of the provincial PCs, former Canadian Ambassador for Fisheries Conservation, and current employee of OCI, a Sullivan family fish company:
“OCI has fished all its 2011 quota in its own vessels.
However, this fall Japan transferred 1335 mt of turbot to Canada from their international quota outside our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) — this was quota which they did not fish.
This quota was divided among Canada's Enterprise Allocation Holders based on their share of that resource. There are 7 shareholders in Canada for this 3LNO turbot.
We are the largest and we also purchased Icewater's share because they were not in a position to fish it. However, our vessel unexpectedly had a lengthier refit than scheduled and then 3 stowaways were found which required the vessel to come to port.
Consequently we were now unable to catch all the quota. We contacted Canadians companies to catch it but only one company was able to fish any of it.
Most companies had other fishing commitments or it was too late to gear up and fish this quota that had to be caught by Dec 31. We then chartered the Festeiro under our licence to fish a portion of this quota, but late approval resulted in less than 200 mt being caught.
DFO set conditions for the Charter which we agreed such as having a Cdn observer on board, fishing the quota in international waters, leaving port empty and landing the turbot in NL where a Cdn monitor would oversee offloading.
This was all completed. Among our own vessel, the other Cdn vessel and the Festeiro only 650 mt was caught leaving 600 mt of quota in the water — quota we received from our own share and from the purchase from Icewater.
I hope this explains the issue fully.”
I spose, but hiring a Spanish “pirate” just feels wrong.
Speaking of illegal fishing, another two citations have been issued against a Faroese trawler on the Grand Banks.
The vessel Ran was caught with almost 5 tonnes of illegal cod on board. She was also cited for not having and independent observer on board.
DFO is back to regularly updating its site that records foreign fishing violations on the Grand Banks.
The department got out of the habit for a while.