Patagonian Toothfish, also known as Chilean Sea Bass, can be sold for significant amounts of money and, as a result, is a favoured fish for pirates. In the past, authorities have undertaken marathon chases of toothfish pirates across territorial waters often ending without any prosecution.
Now an international plan is underway to restrict access for pirate fishing boats into their preferred ports. The spotlight is being focused on the ports in Singapore and Malaysia; a favoured point of entry for illegally poached Patagonian Toothfish from the Antarctic waters.
The international community is requesting that Singapore and Malaysia take action to blacklisted fishing boats by banning them from accessing their ports. Hong Kong did not sign the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) with the rest of China.
This means that there is no legal requirement for making sure that the toothfish entering Hong Kong is fished legally. Because of this loophole, toothfish that arrives into Asia via Malaysia and Singapore is thought to be sent onto Hong Kong and then sold into China. Often the fish is repacked with packaging that claims the fish has been legally caught.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has applauded the move by the international community to close down the pirates favoured entry points into Asia. "These poachers have been able to continue harming the Southern Ocean ecosystem because they have been able to find ways to get illegally caught toothfish to market", said Rob Nicoll, WWF's Antarctic and Southern Ocean Initiative Manager.
The CCAMLR has recently had to close down some of the toothfish fisheries that are located in the Southern Ocean because of the detrimental impact illegal fishers are having on stocks.
However, the illegal fishing still remains a significant issue because the unregulated fishing operators have managed to use the loopholes in international legislation to catch fish outside of the CCAMLR framework. The international community is now urging governments to work together to target pirates and blacklisted fishing boats.