Oversight by insurers may be a major contributor to illegal fishing, finds a report by the University of British Columbia. Research from the university’s Department of Science reveals many illegal fishing vessels – including those flagged by international watchdogs – are still able to obtain insurance coverage.
The report suggests that insurers are failing to cross check lists of known illegal vessels when issuing their policies – an error that if remedied could effectively cut down on unlawful fishing operations, says lead report author Dana Miller.
“Restricting access to insurance could play a major role in ending illegal fishing, and right now, it’s a largely overlooked method,” she stated.
The report urges insurers to consult resources such as regional fisheries management organizations’ Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) vessel lists, and the list of vessels that INTERPOL has issued Purple Notices for.
“This approach is a much less expensive way to prevent illegal fishing than traditional methods,” said co-author Rashid Sumaila, the project director of OceanCanada and a professor in the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.
An Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries investigated 94 illegal and 837 legal fishing vessels, identifying the insurers for 58% of the illegal operations. They found that the same insurance companies often provided coverage to both legal and illegal boats.
Covered vessels included the notorious fleet known as Bandit 6, which was recently caught poaching in several international regions, and has been featured on the European Union’s IUU vessel list for years.
“It was shocking when we found that out,” said Miller. “Insurers should take the simple step of consulting IUU fishing vessel lists to make sure that these notorious and well-known ships are refused insurance.”
The authors also recommend that insurers mandate that all vessels over a certain size be assigned an International Maritime Organization ship identification number, and operate satellite automatic identification vessel tracking technology. These measures would tighten regulation and increase transparency.
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