Global insurers unite to cut financial lifeline to pirate fishing

Leading insurers from around the world have committed to take action on pirate fishing, an unlawful practice that costs the global economy tens of billions of dollars in losses every year and contributes to overfishing and the destruction of vital marine habitats and ecosystems.

According to a press release by Oceana, two dozen companies including Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, AXA, Generali, Hanseatic Underwriters and The Shipowners’ Club have co-sponsored the world’s first insurance industry statement on sustainable marine insurance.

The Statement confirms their commitment to not knowingly insure or facilitate the insuring of vessels that have been blacklisted for their involvement in pirate fishing—also known as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This pioneering initiative was launched at the Our Ocean conference in Malta, an international gathering of world leaders hosted this year by the European Union.

In 2016, a scientific study by researchers with the Sea Around Us and the Fisheries Economics Research Unit in the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia first called upon insurers to restrict or eliminate access to insurance for IUU fishing vessels, demonstrating how such a ban could alter the associated balance of costs and benefits in favor of reducing IUU fishing activities.

Those that participate in illegal and unreported fishing activities break or avoid fisheries management rules and operate outside the effective reach of government control. Such operations cost the global economy between USD 10 billion and 23.5 billion annually, which translates to 11 million to 26 million tonnes of fish.

Much of that fish comes from already overfished stocks, which not only causes further harm to damaged ecosystems but also hurts law-abiding fishers who see their fishing opportunities greatly reduced.

For these and many other reasons, the Sea Around Us long-time collaborator, Oceana, together with the UN Environment’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative decided to facilitate the development of the aforementioned industry statement, called Assisting ocean stewardship through marine insurance.

The statement, Oceana says, “lays the foundation for insurers to help combat IUU fishing through education, awareness building, risk management, and insurance underwriting.”

Beyond promoting the signing of the statement, Oceana and the PSI announced that they will be working with insurers to enhance risk management and insurance underwriting guidelines in order to reduce the risk of insuring vessels and companies associated with IUU fishing.

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