Panama: ‘Flag Of Convenience’ For Illegal Fishing And Anonymity At Sea

"The crystal-clear waters of the oceans surrounding Panama hold wealth beyond the abundance of fish. Legal gaps and flexibility in some of the regulations governing fishing activity have become the ideal bait, attracting companies from all over the world that seek to benefit by keeping some of their business deals in the shadows. This is one reason some experts and organizations refer to Panama as a tax haven.

In December 2019, the European Commission issued Panama a “yellow card,” a warning to nations that do not cooperate in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing that their seafood exports to Europe could be suspended if they don’t shape up. (Panama got a yellow card in 2012 as well, which the commission lifted in 2014.) According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the U.N., IUU fishing is the third most lucrative illicit activity in the world, after the trafficking of drugs and weapons. Researchers estimate that IUU fish catches are worth up to $17 billion annually.

There are several cases in which ships flying the Panamanian flag have been accused of illegal fishing. For example, in 2018, authorities from Madagascar seized a vessel that was taking marine resources from the African country. Its prime minister, Christian Ntsay, said the ship had “previously participated in the trafficking of our natural resources” and that what happened was “unacceptable.”"

Mary Triny Zea and Michelle Carrere report for Mongabay October 13, 2022 with translation by Sarah Engel.


Source: Mongabay, 10/14/2022