GENEVA (AFP) — Illegal fishing of cod and pollock in the Arctic is a transnational crime that is putting the health of fisheries at risk, a report published Wednesday by conservation group WWF shows.
The illegal activity is also adding pressure on fish stocks that are already feeling the impact of climate change, said the report.
Some 70 percent of the world's white fish supply originates from the Arctic. Among these are the Russian Alaska pollock and Barents Sea cod which account for about a quarter of the world's white fish supply.
In 2005, over 100,000 tonnes of illegal cod valued at 225 million euros (350 million dollars) were caught in the Barents Sea.
Efforts to clamp down have resulted in the halving of such illegal landings of cod, but the poaching of Alaska pollock remains a problem, said the WWF.
Illegal Alaska pollock catch can reach a value of 45 million euros a year.
"Illegal fishing in the Arctic is a serious transnational crime crossing European, African, Asian and American borders," said Neil Hamilton, director of WWF International's Arctic Programme.
"Cheats are putting short-term profits ahead of the long-term survival of Arctic fisheries," he added.
The group said illegally caught pollock was typically carried to China for processing by a Russian vessel, the deal was usually handled by middlemen in South Korea, and the processed fish re-exported as fillets to the United States.
"With markets spread across the globe, the distribution of black market cod and pollock is a global problem," said the group.
It also warned that the impact of climate change on fish stocks is still unknown, but that the unknown levels of illegal fishing further complicates any attempt at forecasting the impact.
The group urged efforts to tackle the problem to be "directed to every step of the supply chain, including harvesting, transportation, storage distribution, processing and marketing".
"This requires international cooperation among governments, businesses, organisations and seafood consumers," it said.
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