‘Fishyleaks’ website hopes to land those guilty of overfishing

Karen McVeigh
Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

A website for whistleblowers to expose illegal or unethical practices in the fishing industry has been launched by a charity campaigning to end overfishing in European Union waters.

“Fishyleaks” has been set up by Our Fish to provide an anonymous and secure way for people working in the industry, enforcement bodies and others to shine a light on bad practice.

The group says it has received footage of fishing boats illegally dumping non-valuable dead fish at sea. In March, it accused government agencies of turning a blind eyes to “rampant” rule-breaking in the fishing industry after no undersized cod were reported landed last year, despite EU regulations that boats are no longer allowed to discard any undersized fish they catch.

“We created Fishyleaks to help those who want to share information with us, in a confidential, anonymous and secure manner,” said Rebecca Hubbard, programme director at Our Fish.

“Europe’s fisheries are a common resource, for the benefit of all citizens, that should be managed sustainably and legally to ensure the future of coastal communities, food security and ocean health in the face of the climate crisis. Fishyleaks aims to provide a platform for people who witness activity that undermines these important aspirations, so that they can share that information, while minimising risk to themselves.”

About 1.7m tonnes of fish are estimated to be discarded across the EU every year, because boats catch fish for which they do not have a quota, or because they throw back fish that has a low commercial value. A House of Lords report earlier this year found fishermen were not aware of the EU ban or not implementing it and enforcement agencies were not enforcing it.

“Our Fish often receives news of infringements, but lack the evidence to prove it. By receiving information via Fishyleaks, we hope to expose the problems in the sector so that we can push for solutions,” Hubbard said. The organisation plans to verify the content and check with other sources, using the open source platform, GlobaLeaks.

Griffin Carpenter, senior researcher at the New Economics Foundation thinktank, said he was happy to see the new website. “These vessels are far out at sea, far from society. We need an accountability mechanism.”

Carpenter said illegal activity at sea ranged from the landing of “blackfish” or undeclared fish, to “high grading”, or the discarding of small or low-value fish, to illegal labour practices.