World’s Largest Fish Factory Vessel Stays on IUU List

Credit: Sea Shepherd
Credit: Sea Shepherd

Published Feb 5, 2019 8:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

Following an investigation by Oceana, the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO) has decided to keep the fish factory vessel Damanzaihao (now named Vladivostok 2000) on its list of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels. The organization has also issued warnings to China, Panama and Cook Islands for providing assistance to the vessel. 

The Commission has currently 15 members: Australia, Chile, China, Cook Islands, Cuba, Ecuador, E.U., Denmark, South Korea, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, Chinese Taipei, the U.S. and Vanuatu.

Oceana investigated the Damanzaihao’s movements using Global Fishing Watch’s mapping platform. “Oceana applauds SPRFMO’s decision and views this as an important example of how transparency at sea can help enforce rules that combat IUU fishing,” said Beth Lowell, deputy vice president of U.S. campaigns at Oceana. “With the help of technology, we can see what vessels are doing beyond the horizon and take steps, like Oceana did, to hold the responsible parties accountable.” 

The Vladivostok 2000, currently flagged to Moldova, is one of the world’s largest vessels with a history of changing names and reflagging to different countries. Originally designed as an oil tanker measuring 228 meters, the vessel was rebuilt to function as a one-stop-shop fish processor, with the ability to store, freeze, process and transfer fish. According to a New York Times article, the vessel (named Lafayette and flying a Russian flag when the article was published in 2012) can process up to 547,000 metric tons of fish each year.

In May last year, agents from the Peruvian Environmental Prosecutor’s Office boarded the vessel as part of an federal criminal investigation based on presumed acts of illegal fishing. This latest criminal case was predicated on the same acts of illegal fishing that led to the imposition of a multi-million dollar fine in 2016. Peruvian authorities also accused the Damanzaihao of polluting the marine environment through the illegal discharge of fluids and effluents while anchored in Chimbote. At the time, Sea Shepherd vessel M/V John Paul DeJoria was in Peruvian waters gathering intelligence to assist the Peruvian Government.

Timeline of Likely Vessel Activities Based on Oceana’s Review of Global Fishing Watch Data and SPRFMO Sources

February 6, 2015: Damanzaihao is listed on the SPRFMO IUU List. 

July 6, 2018: Using the Global Fishing Watch platform, Oceana tracked the Damanzaihao leaving Peruvian waters and likely meeting with Cook Islands oil tanker ship Hai Soon 26 on the high seas. According to the SPRFMO meeting report, the two vessels “engaged in transfer activities” as the Damanzaihao was “without adequate fuel.” Also in the report, members noted that this refueling involved “a clear breach” of SPRFMO’s Conservation and Management Measures. SPRFMO regulations say that member country vessels should not assist in any way vessels on its IUU List.

July 13, 2018: Based on Oceana’s analysis using the Global Fishing Watch platform, the Damanzaihao entered Panama’s exclusive economic zone, where it remained for three days and according to the SPRFMO meeting report, “received port services in Balboa, Panama.” According to Panama’s comments cited in the report, “a private company working inside the harbor refueled the vessel without authorization by the Port Authorities...” SPRFMO regulations say that members and cooperating parties such as Panama should prohibit the entry of vessels on the IUU List into their ports and their vessels should not assist in any way.

September 12, 2018: Based on Oceana’s information obtained from the Global Fishing Watch platform, Damanzaihao arrived at Port of Dalian in China, and SPRFMO’s meeting report similarly noted that this vessel traveled to Dalian, China. SPRFMO regulations say that members should prohibit the entry of vessels on the IUU List into their ports.

December 2018: Oceana Chile sent information showing potentially suspicious activities surrounding the Damanzaihao to the SPRFMO.

January 19-21, 2019: SPRFMO’s 6th Compliance and Technical Committee Meeting was held in The Hague, where the SPRFMO reviewed all information surrounding the Damanzaihao. The SPRFMO decided to keep the fish factory vessel on its IUU List. SPRFMO also found that China, Panama and Cook Islands were not in compliance with conservation and management measures to combat IUU fishing and issued them a “priority non-compliance” status, which reflects violations to SPRFMO regulations.