Sinking illegal 'blue boats' not enough of a deterrent - advisor

2:43 pm on 18 January 2017

Blowing up, burning and sinking so-called Vietnamese "blue boats" for illegally fishing in some Pacific countries and Indonesia is not enough of a deterrent, a Pacific fisheries adviser says.

This picture shows a Vietnamese fishing boat in flames after Indonesian Navy officers blew up the vessel due to illegal fishing activities in the remote Anambas Islands.

A Vietnamese fishing boat in flames after the Indonesian military blew it up for fishing illegally. Photo: AFP

The boats have been caught fishing illegally in many countries over the past few years including Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia and more recently in New Caledonia.

New Zealand-based Pacific fisheries advisor Francisco Blaha said the small wooden vessels, with limited electronic equipment on board, were able to sail undetected into Pacific countries where they target reef fish and beche de mer on remote reefs.

Mr Blaha said although burning the boats has had great international media appeal it had not stopped them coming.

The only way to stop the boats was to get Vietnam to acknowledge they were its vessels and implement management measures at their end, he said.

This might be achieved by imposing economic sanctions on Vietnam, placing tariffs on its seafood exports or getting the EU to issue it with one of its yellow cards signifying concern with Vietnam's lack of effort to control illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, he said.

"So here is a yellow card, we need to have a serious dialogue, if you don't fix this we are going to put a red card on you and that means that anything that was caught by vessels of your country will not be able to enter the European Union.

"So a yellow card to Vietnam would be something that will definitely bring their attention because they depend massively on exports to the European Union."

Mr Blaha said local fisheries authorities were already flat out trying to keep track of the massive foreign fleets after their tuna.

"You know and they are trying to do as much as they can with all the limitations they have to control the tuna fleets," he said.

"But these small blue vessels, they appear in the reefs, they appear in the local communities, they appear in the areas where there is not much of a fishery [presence]. Because basically they just get into the reefs and start working along the reefs so somebody has to see them."

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