Illegal fishing vessels linked to large European fishing firms have begun plundering endangered ocean stocks in the Western and Central Pacific, environment watchdog Greenpeace said on Tuesday.
Surveillance of fishing fleets near the tiny Pacific nations of Kiribati and the Cook Islands showed European owned or operated vessels had expanded their range from the Indian and Atlantic Oceans - mainly in search of tuna.
"Most of the cases documented show clear links to tuna being sold in European markets," Greenpeace said in a new report on what it said were "European sharks" biting the Pacific.
With a global tuna shortage, large European firms named by Greenpeace as Albacora, Calvopesca and Conservas Garavilla, were sending fishing boats into the western Pacific under flags from Venezuela, Panama, Ecuador and the Netherlands Antilles.
"All Pacific island nations negotiating fishing agreements with the European Union need to be fully aware of the track record of Spanish and Dutch-owned vessels in the region, including their pirate fishing operations," Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Lagi Toribau said.
"Instead of cutting back the amount of fishing, both legal and illegal fishing fleets are expanding," the report said.
Spain-based Calvopesca and Albacora’s interests include refrigerated tuna fishing boats, transportation, storage, distribution and sale into European supermarkets. The companies say on their web sites that their fishing operations comply with international laws.
But Greenpeace said seven of 11 fishing incidents this year were linked to European firms and Ecuadorian company Nirsa, which also sells fish to European stores.
Some were licensed only for fishing in the Eastern Pacific, while others were caught in exclusive fishing zones near Kiribati and French Polynesia, Greenpeace said.