Twenty of the biggest insurance companies on the planet have withdrawn the safety net for "pirate ships" which overfish the world's oceans.
Oceana Europe, a conservation group which campaigns against overfishing, says the practice costs the global economy tens of billions of dollars every year and leads to the destruction of vital marine habitats and ecosystems.
Allianz, AXA, Generali, Hanseatic Underwriters, The Shipowners' Club and several other marine insurance companies have signed the first global statement on sustainable marine insurance.
They have promised not to insure vessels which have been blacklisted for their involvement in pirate fishing.
The initiative was announced at the Our Ocean conference in Malta on Friday, October 6, a gathering which was hosted by the European Union.
"Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing has ramifications for all of us and contributes to overfishing. It takes away jobs from honest fishers and supplies the unsuspecting public with illegally-caught food. Today is a major breakthrough with leading insurers committing to deny a financial lifeline to pirate-fishing vessels," said Lasse Gustavsson, the Executive Director of Oceana Europe.
Pirate fishing is estimated to lead to up to 26 million tonnes of fish being illegally caught.
"As a leading marine insurer, AXA is well aware of the risks posed by illegal fishing, notably overfishing and pollution risks owing to the fact that the vessels involved are generally in a very poor condition," said Jad Ariss, Group Head of Public Affairs and Corporate Responsibility at AXA.
One of the areas where it takes place is off the coast of west Africa, where Chinese fishing vessels operate illegally and destroy marine life.
The waters off West Africa have the highest levels of illegal catch in the world, according to the Environmental Justice Foundation, which says more than a third of all fish caught in the region is illegal, unreported or unregulated.
"We live on the Blue Planet, so it's a tragedy that pirate fishing, polluted oceans and dead coral reefs are out-of-sight and out-of-mind to many. With this commitment, insurers are showing foresight and leadership," said Butch Bacani, who leads UN Environment's Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative.
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