Monday, November 1, 1999 Published at 05:05 GMT
Fears for Antarctic fish
Albatrosses are falling victim to the pirates (Photo: Greenpeace/Grace)
By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby
Greenpeace campaigners have enlisted the support of one of the UK's leading supermarket chains, Tesco, in their attempts to protect a species of Antarctic fish.
The toothfish grows slowly, and can reach more than two metres in length. It lives for up to 50 years and does not breed until it is at least 10 years old.
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) says half of the toothfish catch is taken by illegal pirate vessels, and it believes that the pirates have taken up to 90% of all the toothfish caught in some parts of the southern ocean.
CCAMLR starts its 1999 meeting on 1 November in the Tasmanian city of Hobart, with the fate of the toothfish high on its agenda. It has authorised an annual catch limit of about 10,000 tonnes, but the pirate catch is believed to be more than twice as high.
Greenpeace wants CCAMLR to impose a moratorium on all fishing for the species as a matter of urgency. It says pirate fishing should be stopped, and more research done to see whether the toothfish catch is sustainable.
The Australian Government said in 1998 that the continuation of pirate fishing at present levels would mean the toothfish became commercially extinct within two or three years.
But CCAMLR says the fishing gear used by the pirates kills more than 100,000 seabirds a year, including endangered albatross species. The vessels set lines with up to 20,000 baited hooks, and birds which swallow the bait are dragged underwater to drown.
Some albatrosses live for up to 85 years, and mate for life. They spend most of their time in the air, relying on their 3.5m wingspan to ride the ocean thermals.