Fishing observers ‘intimidated and bribed by EU crews’

Date: May 18, 2012

Author: Jack Watling

Source: The Guardian

Observers monitoring European fish quotas are being regularly intimidated, offered bribes and undermined by the fishing crews they are observing, a Guardian investigation has discovered.

More than 20 former and current observers on Portuguese and Spanish ships said that they had experienced tactics such as beingput under surveillance, deprived of sleep, or threatened with being thrown overboard, or having their official documentation stolen by fishing crews to conceal a culture of overfishing.

Independent observers are deployed on board every fishing vessel operating in the Northwest Atlantic Fishery Organisation (NAFO), working on boats for five months at a time to monitor compliance with quotas shared between countries, which are designed to protect certain overfished species. Until 2004, they were provided by the EU, but are now provided by member states. If the observer witnesses infringements, they must inform a fisheries inspector, who will board the vessel, although the observer is not allowed to provide the inspector with any details about what infringements may have occurred.

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