Seeing Greenpeace in the leading headline of Hong Kong’s most prestigious financial newspaper is not something I am used to! But if you knew why, you would see how your support is bringing companies engaged in overfishing to their knees.
It starts with a bungled financial deal we brought to light in a letter to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange three weeks ago. In an initial public offering (IPO) of shares sponsored by Deutsche Bank, one of China’s largest tuna longline companies, China Tuna Industry Group (CTI), wanted to raise up to US$150 million to expand its fishing fleet.
Here’s where everything went awry: in its draft prospectus, CTI omitted serious material information about the status of the fish stock that the company catches. The fish stock has already been declared ‘overfished’ by scientists this summer, and instead CTI used three year-old data to claim that the stock is still at a “healthy level of abundance”.
What’s more, it appears the company admitted the Chinese fleet had breached international fisheries agreements for years, breaking quotas of tuna species such as bigeye.
So we did two things.
First, we submitted a complaint letter to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, raising the issues of outdated tuna stock information and the environmental concerns of overfishing.
RESULT? They have delayed the public offering period. We’ll continue to push them for a total cancellation.
And second: We alerted Chinese authorities.
RESULT? In a reply letter to Greenpeace dated 30 September, China’s Bureau of Fisheries confirmed that it is conducting an internal investigation into CTI. The Bureau of Fisheries even stated that, “The (draft) prospectus has gravely misled investors and the international community, and caused a tremendous negative impact.”
We have now contacted Deutsche Bank, which helped organise the deal. Deutsche Bank has a “social and environmental risk framework policy”, which in this case they seem not to have applied. The prospectus exposed investors to unnecessary risk and we are demanding the bank show how it intends to ensure this does not happen again.
Distant water fishing companies like CTI operate out of site and out of mind. Over 5000 vessels roam the oceans with little controls to ensure they are fishing legally, sustainably, or ethically. There is huge bycatch of endanged marine animals as well as serious overfishing, and depletion of species such as yellowfin, albacore, bluefin, and bigeye. Poor working conditions and even forced labour are not uncommon as the fishing vessels are out at seas for up to three years.
Elsa Lee is a Senior Business Advisor at Greenpeace East Asia.
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