THIRD PARTY Plunder of the oceans – The rise of pirate fishing, impacts and solutions

Talk June 7, 2011 7:00 PM

Jointly supported by the Environmental Justice Foundation and Communications Inc.

Short film screening of Deadly Catch, followed by a discussion with an expert panel and audience Q&A. 

One of the single biggest factors in ocean degradation is overfishing. Fish stocks have declined dramatically, with as much as 90% of big fish gone in some parts of the global ocean. More than one billion people rely on fish as their main source of protein globally. As catches decline and quotas and rules are tightened in response, there has been a huge increase in illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) or “pirate” fishing.  

Pirate fishing is estimated to make up almost one-fifth of the global catch, and respects neither national boundaries nor international attempts to manage ocean resources. The recent seizure of £4 million worth of seafood in the Spanish port of Las Palmas, allegedly caught illegally in west African waters and headed for dinner tables in Europe, serves to highlight this growing criminal trade, which exploits lax regulations at ports and on the high seas, and often involves serious human rights infringements.

The evening will reveal the extent of the problem of pirate fishing, which takes place in both the developed and developing world. Discussion will focus on the many issues surrounding pirate fishing, including its dramatic impact on poorer coastal states, where hundreds of thousands of people rely on fish for food and livelihood. How EU subsidies are still benefitting illegal fishing operations, and how port states are being seen as the frontline in combating this activity. We will be exploring possible solutions and the importance of the role of the media in exposing the impacts of pirate fishing as a crime, comparable to international drugs smuggling.

This is the second in a series of events in 2011 at the Frontline Club focussing on the global ocean.The first event, “Death of the Oceans” took place May 11th and discussed all the stressors threatening ocean health and abundance. The video can be viewed here.


Chaired by Tom Clarke, science correspondent Channel 4 News. Tom Clarke’s beat varies from the pharmaceutical industry to climate change. Since joining Channel 4 News in 2003, he has covered energy and the environment in from the Arctic Circle, seen some of the world’s most endangered whales in Russia’s far East, and followed the growing pains of the UK’s landmark Climate Change Bill. Tom started out as a scientist studying insects in the America’s deep south. After leaving the lab, Tom trained in journalism in New York. He worked as a science producer for American National Public Radio before returning to the UK to work for the science magazine Nature.

Domitilla Senni, policy adviser to the Pew Environment Group since 2006, began her work with environmental NGOs in 1987 when she joined Greenpeace as the Italian coordinator for the international Antarctic campaign. She then moved to become political coordinator of Greenpeace International Mediterranean campaign. She coordinated the International NGOs Steering Committee on Food during the 1996 FAO Food Security Summit. She then served as Executive Director of Greenpeace Italy from 1997 to 2004.   She also worked as a consultant to WWF, the Third Millennium Foundation and Oceana. She has been a member of the Italian Ocean Commission and the National Council for the Environment established by the Ministry of Environment, and policy advisor on multilateral environmental agreements to the former Minister of Environment, Edo Ronchi.

Andy Hickman is the Oceans Campaigner at the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and coordinates EJF’s community surveillance project in Sierra Leone, working with local fishing communities to document illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. He is also the Project Coordinator for an EU funded programme to support the development of co-managed Marine Protected Areas in West Africa. Prior to joining EJF, Andy worked as a secondary school teacher on the Teach First program. He studied social sciences at King’s College London, has a postgraduate law degree, and has worked as a freelance journalist focusing on environmental issues including ship breaking, water mismanagement and fisheries.

John Pearce is a Senior Consultant at MRAG Ltd.  He has over nearly twenty years experience in fisheries management, the problems of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and related options for monitoring, control and surveillance.  His experience covers both practical and theoretical elements of the IUU problem. On the practical side this has included the planning, training and implementation of various MCS activities such as port state control programmes, fisheries patrolling, observer programmes and vessel monitoring systems.  On the theoretical side, his work has included the development and implementation of risk assessment systems to assess the chance that products of illegal fishing may enter the supply chain, the EU funded COBECOS programme (Costs and Benefits of Control and Operating Strategies) and the first study to undertake a world-wide analysis of illegal and unreported fishing. His experience covers a wide variety of fisheries both inside and outside EU waters including tuna fisheries in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, fisheries in the Antarctic and high seas deep water fisheries.  In this capacity he has worked as part of the UK delegation or as an invited expert to IOTC, ICCAT, WCFPC, bilateral UK Fisheries Commissions and the Marine Technical Advisory Group of the International Commission for Land Use and Ecosystems at which he chaired the Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing subgroup.


EJF is a UK charity working internationally to protect the natural environment and human rights. We work with grassroots environment and human rights campaigners in some of the world’s poorest countries, such as Sierra Leone, where we build local capacity to protect the environment upon which communities depend.

EJF also campaigns internationally, producing award winning films and high quality advocacy reports to increase awareness of links between environmental degradation in the developing world, to decisions taken by consumers, companies and policy makers here internationally, hence our campaigns on illegal fishing in West Africa, on cotton and shrimp production, and on pesticides.

Highly commended as Campaigner of the Year in 2010 by Ethical Corporation Magazine, EJF is a small, dynamic and extremely cost-effective charity that makes a big impact. In our first decade our campaigns have attracted support from many high profile individuals including artists (Rachel Whiteread, Damien Hirst), fashion designers (Christian Lacroix, Luella Bartley), and actors (Johnny Depp, Ashley Jensen). EJF’s patron’s include Rachel Whiteread Emilia Fox, Iain Banks and Benedict Allen.


Picture credit: Environmental Justice Foundation.