Oceana asks EU and Xunta de Galicia to stop subsidising fishing pirates

Biomega Nutrición, partly owned by Manuel Antonio Vidal Pego, shall receive 3.9 million Euros to build a factory to produce Omega 3 out of fishliver oil, which often comes from vulnerable deepsea sharks

Press Release Date: April 19, 2010

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana asks the European Union and the Xunta de Galicia (regional government for Galicia, Spain) to reverse the recent decision to grant subsidies to Vidal Pego, who has been involved in IUU fishing for years. Manuel Antonio Vidal Pego is a part owner and manager of Biomega Nutrición, which will receive 3.9 million Euro to build a factory to produce Omega 3 fatty acids of fish liver oil.[i] Fish liver oil comes mostly from vulnerable deepsea sharks. The subsidies will be paid in 2009 and 2010 and represent 60% of the total investment to construct the factory. These subsidies are co-financed by the European Fisheries Fund.[ii]

Vidal Pego is also the legal representative of the fishing company Vidal Armadores SA, owner, part owner or operator of several fishing vessels on blacklists for IUU fishing (Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing) and against whom Oceana has been campaigning for years.

It is outrageous that the European Union and the Xunta de Galicia keep financing Vidal Pego and other family members involved in IUU fishing – this shows that in reality these authorities keep supporting illegal fishing instead of fighting it, protests Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe.

Oceana has sent letters to the European Union and the Conselleria de Pesca in Galicia to try to reverse the decision on these subsidies. Oceana has also requested immediate investigations into the origin of the fish products imported or stored by Biomega Nutrición and other companies Vidal Pego is involved with, to guarantee they do not come from illegal fishing.

Oceana is asking the European and Spanish authorities to blacklist Vidal’s fishing vessel that have been involved in IUU fishing and that are not included in blacklists yet, request the payback of all subsidies that Vidal companies received and close the companies.

Oceana is particularly concerned about the planned construction of the processing factory in Boiro, where fish oil and fish liver oil would be converted into Omega 3. Most fish liver oil comes from deep-sea sharks -threatened species often caught in unregulated fisheries in international waters or taken without fishing licenses. In July 2008, the Antillas Reefer, a vessel partly owned by the Vidal Armadores subsidiary Mabenal SA, was seized with illegally caught sharks, shark livers and shark oil on board.

Oceana has been involved in a campaign against IUU fishing for years, and has denounced issues related to Manuel Antonio Vidal Pego and his father Antonio Vidal Suárez in the past. In 2006, Oceana provided information to a Florida (United States) court to support the process against Vidal Pego. In November of that year, Vidal Pego was sentenced to four years probation and ordered to pay a $400,000 fine. He was charged with importing and conspiring to sell 26 tons of illegally caught Patagonian toothfish bass in the United States through the port of Miami in 2004. Antonio Vidal turned himself in to U.S. authorities on April 19, 2006 after INTERPOL issued a warrant for his arrest.  He pleaded guilty for obstruction of justice.

Several fishing vessels, owned, partly owned or controlled by Galician company Vidal Armadores have been involved in IUU fishing in the past.

  • In November 2008, the Spanish fisheries ministry detected irregularities in the declaration of captures of the Belma and began the necessary investigations to define the responsibilities.[iii]
  • In July 2008, the Antillas Reefer (current flag Panama, IMO 8603688), a vessel partly owned by the Vidal Armadores subsidiary Mabenal SA, was seized with illegally caught sharks, shark livers and shark oil on board.[iv] 
  • In May 2008, the Paloma V (current name Trosky, current flag Cambodia, IMO 9319856) was inspected in the New Zealand port of Auckland, where the vessel intended to land Patagonian toothfish. During the inspection, officials retrieved information that showed that the Paloma V had been involved in IUU fishing in the past. Consequently, the vessel was blacklisted by CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources).[v] The Paloma V is partly owned by Vidal Armadores subsidiary Mabenal SA.
  • Another one of Vidal’s ships, the Spanish flagged Galaecia, which sunk in 2008,was the subject of a confidential file compiled by the Spanish General Secretariat of Marine Fisheries. In July 2004, the captain of the Galaecia was fined 60.000 Euro for manipulating satellite images and with another 60.000 Euro for the obstruction of inspection works.  The ministry opened a second sanctioning process against Vidal in 2005, after Oceana informed the public and condemned the illegal transfer of supplies from the Spanish flagged Vidal vessel Galaecia to the Hammer, another of Vidal’s ships included in the CCAMLR registry of pirate fishing vessels. In July 2008, authorities started investigating possible falsifications of documents of disembarkations and captures.[vi] 
  • Australian fishing patrol vessels caught Vidals vessel Viarsa 1 red-handed in 2003 while illegally fishing Patagonian toothfish in Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), close to the McDonald islands. Vidal and the crew of this ship escaped criminal changes by an Australian jury for illegal fishing activities after the vessel participated in a 4,000-mile getaway lasting one month in the Southern Ocean. Finally the vessel was scrapped.[vii]  
  • According to the South African press, in 2007, the vessel Ina Maka (current name: Corvus, current flag Panama, IMO 7322897) was fined 400,000 South African Rand (approximately 40.000 EUR ) and its 60 kilometres of gillnets were confiscated after being caught illegally fishing off South Africa with a load of nurse sharks on board.[viii]


[i] Boiro estrenará en seis meses un centro formativo para hostelería, El Correo Gallego – ?12/11/2009?

[ii] Xunta de Galicia, Referencia do Consello da xubta de Galicia que tivo lugar no pazo de Raxoi o dia 12 de Novembro de 2009, baixo a presidencia do Sr. D. Alberto Alberto Núñez Feijóo

[iii] 05/03/2009 Actuaciones del MARM en relación con determinados buques implicados en pesca ilegal en aguas reguladas por la CCAMLR

[iv] Agencia de Informaçao de Moçambique (Maputo), 18 July 2008, http://allafrica.com/stories/200807180938.html

[v] http://www.ccamlr.org/pu/e/sc/fish-monit/iuu-list-09.pdf

[vi] 05/03/2009 Actuaciones del MARM en relación con determinados buques implicados en pesca ilegal en aguas reguladas por la CCAMLR

[vii] Oceana, Press Release, »The end of pirate fishing vessel Viarsa 1, 4.2.2008.

[viii] Carnie, T. The Mercury,  29 August 2007, Vessel fined R400 000 for carrying gill nets