Industrial fishing ramps up during COVID19 pandemic

London, 1 May 2020 - As the global pandemic forces countries into lockdown, industrial fishing vessels are taking advantage to further plunder the oceans.


Argentinian fishermen report that over 100 vessels have been seen illegally operating in Argentina’s Exclusive Economic Zone last week. Global Fishing Watch data demonstrates a higher concentration of fishing activity in the area for this period compared with the previous two years. [1]

A shocking image of a nearby ship’s radar, revealed to Greenpeace Argentina, shows an “armada of AIS-dark (untracked) fishing vessels” plundering Argentine waters, having apparently coordinated to turn off their tracking systems. The activity has been reported to the Argentine Coast Guard and government authorities. 

Philip Evans, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:

“Some people assume that the global pandemic is allowing nature to heal, but that certainly isn’t the case for our oceans. In the unregulated waters of the South Atlantic, and closer to home in the north Atlantic, we’ve seen industrial fishing activities continue, with some supertrawlers even leaving port to fish in UK waters during the global lockdown.

“Industrial fishing is destroying our oceans, and destroying the livelihoods of more sustainable, local fishers who are largely unable to work during the pandemic. We must address the unfair fishing system, which favours unsustainable, industrial fishing fleets over local, more sustainable fleets. We also need a strong Global Ocean Treaty to protect unique ecosystems like those off the coast of Argentina.”

The vessels in Argentine waters are mostly jiggers and it is estimated that each one catches around 50 tons of squid per night. Foreign vessels without a license are not allowed to fish inside another nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone, or 200 nautical miles from the coast.  

The captain of the vessel Don Pedro, Alberto Mendoza, who witnessed the illegal activity in Argentinian waters, said:  

“The vessels stay on mile 201, but when night falls, they cross that line and enter Argentine waters. We counted 95 vessels on the radar within a 20 miles distance, which with their satellite beacons turned off, as well as concealing their identifying markings, represented a major navigational hazard for those of us fishing legally in the area. We need a global effort to properly regulate these waters and make sure there are enough fish for coastal communities.”

Across the world, including in the UK, there are increasingly examples of the industrial fishing fleet remaining relatively unaffected by COVID19 restrictions compared to local fishers. For example, in the North Atlantic, the supertrawlers Willem van der Zwan, Frank Bonefaas and Afrika all left port in Holland in early April, during the COVID19 lockdown, to fish in the north Atlantic off the west coast of Scotland despite much of the Scottish fleet being currently unable to leave port.


For a free-to-use collection of images of a peaceful protest against overfishing see here

For the Global Fishing Watch maps and the ship’s radar image see here

Tracking data for supertrawlers operating in the North Atlantic during the lockdown available on request


[1] Global Fishing Watch website data for fishing activity between April 1st to April 25th for 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Download The Wild West Atlantic: The impact of overfishing in the south-west Atlantic ocean report here


James Hanson, Press Officer, Greenpeace UK: 07801 212 994 

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