Fish piracy costs billions a year

Fish piracy - seafood caught illegally, not reported to authorities or outside environmental and catch regulations - represents as much as US$10 billion (HK$77.6 billion) to US$23 billion in global losses each year, non-profit conservation group Oceana estimated last month.

For example, the shark fin trade in Hong Kong suggests that three to four times more sharks are being killed than official reports say, with US$292 million to US$476 million worth of shark fins sold.

Because pirated fish is sold on black markets, specifics of the economic impact are tough to decipher. But Washington-based Oceana looked at the records of fish catches by country as reported to the United Nations, then compared those statistics to seafood sales in various world markets.

The report said illegal trade could account for 11 million to 25 million metric tons of seafood, a minimum of 20% of seafood worldwide.

Fishermen who comply with legal standards can also lose business when they sell in the same market as illegal operators who don’t follow environmental or sanitary standards, the report found. In addition, adults and children have been trafficked into service on illegal fishing ships, making a catch more lucrative, it said.

Illegal fishing targets some of the most expensive species, including shrimp, fugu pufferfish, lobster, whole abalone and sea urchin uni. Penalties are often a fraction of potential profit, the report found. It estimated also that illegal trade threatens 260 million jobs dependant on marine fisheries.

Contributed by Reuters News