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An ICIJ Investigation

Plunder in the Pacific

As other fisheries are pushed to their limits, giant trawlers move southward toward Antarctica to catch what is left.

  • Asian, European and Latin American fleets have devastated fish stocks in the southern Pacific, once among the world’s richest waters.
  • Since 2006, jack mackerel stocks have declined by nearly two-thirds. The oily fish is a staple in Africa, but people elsewhere are unaware that it is in their forkfuls of farmed salmon as a vital component of fishmeal for aquaculture.
  • National interests and geopolitical rivalry have blocked efforts to ratify a regional fisheries management organization to impose binding regulations to rescue jack mackerel from further collapse.
  • In Chile, a handful of companies controlled by wealthy families own rights to 87 percent of the jack mackerel catch; with government backing, they have secured unrealistically high quotas — beyond what scientists say are essential to save the stock.
  • In Peru, the world’s second largest fishing nation, widespread cheating at fishmeal plants allows companies to overfish and evade taxes. At least 630,000 tons of anchoveta – worth nearly $200 million as fishmeal – “vanished” over two and a half years.
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