MaltaToday | 18 May 2008 | Pirate tuna ships change identity in Grand Harbour

NEWS | Sunday, 18 May 2008

Pirate tuna ships change identity in Grand Harbour

Greenpeace and the World WildLife Fund (WWF) have raised the alarm over two “pirate” purse-seiner fishing vessels allegedly using Malta as a base for illegal tuna fishing operations.
The Cevahir and Abdi Baba I, both with Turkish names and plate numbers and flying under the flag of Bolivia, were photographed in the Grand Harbour on 21 April 2008. Greenpeace and WWF reported the matter to the European Commission and the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), warning that the two vessels were equipped for tuna fishing at a time when the legal fisheries are closed. The conservation groups also pointed out that the Bolivian flag was not supported by any legal register, rendering the vessels stateless. Bolivia is furthermore not a contracting party to ICCAT.
Photographs taken on 2 May show that the same two vessels, still in the harbour of Valletta, had changed their names to Manara I and Manara II and switched their Bolivian flags to Libyan ones overnight. This notwithstanding the fact that ships bearing these names already exist, and are listed in the ICCAT register.
On 3 May, both vessels left the Grand Harbour, apparently heading in the direction of bluefin tuna fishing grounds, fully equipped with fishing gear.
The bluefin tuna is threatened with extinction in the Mediterranean on account of serial over-fishing. This year the European Commission closed the fisheries earlier than usual after a number of EU member states overshot their allocated quota. Nonetheless, the illegal tuna trade still attracts considerable criminal activity on account of the enormous prices fetched by individual specimens on the international markets.

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