|January 15, 2008|
Europe’s Appetite for Seafood Propels Illegal Trade
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
LONDON — Walking at the Brixton market among the parrotfish, doctorfish and butterfish, Effa Edusie is surrounded by pieces of her childhood in Ghana. Caught the day before far off the coast of West Africa, they have been airfreighted to London for dinner.
Ms. Edusie’s relatives used to be fishermen. But no more. These fish are no longer caught by Africans.
On the underside of the waterlogged brown cardboard box that holds the snapper is the improbable red logo of the China National Fisheries Corporation, one of the largest suppliers of West African fish to Europe. Europe’s dinner tables are increasingly supplied by global fishing fleets, which are depleting the world’s oceans to feed the ravenous consumers who have become the most effective predators of fish.
Fish is now the most traded animal commodity on the planet, with about 100 million tons of wild and farmed fish sold each year. Europe has suddenly become the world’s largest market for fish, worth more than 14 billion euros, or about $22 billion a year. Europe’s appetite has grown as its native fish stocks have shrunk so that Europe now needs to import 60 percent of fish sold in the region, according to the European Union.
In Europe, the imbalance between supply and demand has led to a thriving illegal trade. Some 50 percent of the fish sold in the European Union originates in developing nations, and much of it is laundered like contraband, caught and shipped illegally beyond the limits of government quotas or treaties. The smuggling operation is well financed and sophisticated, carried out by large-scale mechanized fishing fleets able to sweep up more fish than ever, chasing threatened stocks from ocean to ocean.........