Vanuatu, a small nation in the Pacific, is currently embroiled in a legal battle over the alleged corrupt sale of its mackerel fishing rights to Unimed Glory SA, a Panamanian company with links to Greek shipping magnates. The Vanuatu government claimed that the rights were sold to Unimed Glory SA “in perpetuity” by Tuna Fishing (Vanuatu) Limited without the government’s knowledge or proper authorization and for only a fraction of their market value.
According to court documents obtained by the Financial Times, Unimed paid just $2 per tonne for the rights under a 2010 contract. However, Vanuatu sought to sell the same rights this year for $300 per tonne. Notably, money was paid to Tuna Fishing (Vanuatu) Limited, and not to the government directly.
Fishing in the region has been monitored by the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation since 2012. While the organization has maintained this oversight, the Vanuatu government argues that Unimed’s deal took place outside the framework of the organization.
The case is currently being heard in the High Court of England, and if the government succeeds, it may establish a precedent for Pacific island nations to challenge similar transactions. The sale of fishing rights has been an ongoing concern for the region, which extensively relies on fishing for both domestic consumption and exports.
The case highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in the global fishing industry, not just in the Pacific. Corruption in the fishing industry can have significant consequences for the environment, as well as for the livelihoods of those who depend on it. Governments, intergovernmental organizations, and companies must work together to guarantee that fishing is conducted sustainably and ethically.
Ultimately, the legal battle over Vanuatu’s fishing rights serves as a stark reminder of the challenges corruption poses to developing countries. Only by exposing such practices to the light of scrutiny can they be tackled and ultimately eliminated.
Source: Financial Times, “Vanuatu faces legal battle over mackerel fishing rights”, October 14, 2022.