The transfer took place between two vessels belonging to Antonio Vidal.
An on-board observer from the Spanish Institute of Oceanography reported this illegal activity but the General Secretariat of Maritime Fisheries has not taken any action in this respect.
The international conservationist organisation Oceana asserts that in November 2004 the vessel Galaecia belonging to the company Vidal Armadores, SA, took onboard an illegal toothfish transfer from the vessel Hammer (http://www.colto.org/Vessels/vess_Carran.htm), which also belongs to the same ship-owner, Antonio Vidal, in Indian Ocean waters off South Africa.
According to international regulations, a vessel that participates in transfer to or from another vessel which is on the list of those regarded as “pirate” (technically known as “dedicated to illegal, uncontrolled and unregulated fishing”, IUU), immediately acquires the same classification.
The situation is even more serious if we consider that the Galaecia is currently carrying out an experimental fishing campaign subsidised to the tune of 1,310,000 euros by the General Secretariat of Maritime Fisheries, and had an observer from the Spanish Institute of Oceanography on board. This researcher reported the illegal activity of the Galaecia to his superiors who, in turn, reported it to the General Secretariat of Maritime Fisheries, which answers to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. However, that organisation closed the file on the accusation without imposing a sanction on the ship-owner or even making the incident public.
At the last meeting of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which took place a few days ago in Hobart, several countries, including New Zealand, Australia and France, asked for the Galaecia’s fishing licence to be withdrawn, without the Spanish authorities having taken any action whatsoever in this respect.
Ship-owner Antonio Vidal is the very same person as the one being indicted by the US Department of Justice for the illegal import of fish to that country, falsification of documents and obstruction of justice. Antonio Vidal was recently absolved in another case by an Australian court, despite the fact that a quantity of banned fish had been found on board another of his ships, the Viarsa. The fact that when he was finally caught by Australian coastguards after a chase lasting 20 days there were no nets in the water and the vessel was not within Australian jurisdictional waters technically prevented him from being sentenced. Antonio Vidal is a member of the Marín Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association.
“It is unfailingly ironic that the Spanish authorities are calling for the release of Spanish vessels arrested for illegal fishing by other countries, arguing that our own government will impose penalties on them, when what actually happens in practice is that the conduct of the General Secretariat of Maritime Fisheries guarantees the impunity of offenders, concealing the information sent to them on violations of the law by Spanish ship-owners who the Government continues to subsidise with tens of millions of euros” stated Xavier Pastor, the Director of Oceana in Europe.