Fishing industry scandals threaten South Korea's international fish trade

Press release - 2013-04-11
Seoul, April 11, 2013 – Illegal fishing scandals and human rights abuses linked to South Korea’s fishing industry have earned the country a bad reputation that is jeopardising its fish trade with the US and the EU, Greenpeace East Asia said.

Greenpeace is urging the Korean government to bring its fishing industry under control and adopt a policy that ensures legal and sustainable fishing or risk a global backlash on its fisheries exports.

The Greenpeace East Asia report, Korea's Distant Water Fisheries: IUU Fishing, International Violations and Human Rights Scandals, (2) was discussed today in the Standing Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Korean National Assembly. This report details 34 cases in which Korean fishing companies engaged in practices including illegal fishing, non-compliance with international fishing standards and human rights abuses in their fleets. 

"The South Korean government must rein in an industry that operates outside of the law. Wide-ranging reforms in South Korea’s distant water policies are urgently required to rebuild the country's international reputation and ensure the sustainable future of its fishing industry," said Jiehyun Park, Greenpeace East Asia Oceans Campaigner.

Korea is a leading distant water fishing power with 359 vessels operating in every ocean in the world (3). In recent years, however, the Korean fleet has been linked to scandals involving exploitative practices in the Southern Ocean, overfishing of toothfish in Antarctica, pirate fishing and forgery in Africa and cruel abuses against fishing crews in the Pacific Ocean.

Instead of acting decisively and holding thorough investigations, the Seoul government has tolerated and covered up the industry’s wrongdoing and sanctions have not matched the seriousness of the crimes. 

Korean parliamentarians reacted swiftly to the report, calling for policy reforms and a transparent monitoring systems. MP Jae-kwon Shim, a member of the Standing Committee, also raised the issue about IUU activities at the Standing Committee meeting.

"The government should prioritise stopping illegal fishing activities, unsustainable fishing practices and human rights abuses by Korean fleets. Unless action is taken we expect an international backlash with market-related and other measures by both the US and EU to sanction these destructive and unethical practices based on their progressive legislations and increasing demand for sustainable and ethical seafood products," Jiehyun Park said.

Greenpeace is campaigning for an end to illegal and unsustainable fishing including destructive fishing methods and for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans, both necessary steps to restoring our oceans to health and to maintain living oceans and ample fish for future generations.


1) Official statement by US National Oceaninc and Atmospheric Administration and EU warning on illegally sourced fish from West Africa 


3) KOFA yearbook