Vidal is being accused by the American Justice Department for several alleged illegal fish importation offences, fraud, misrepresentation and the obstruction of justice. But he has been also sought by authorities in Australia and New Zeland.
The conservationist organisation, Oceana, has announced that the Spanish shipowner, Antonio Vidal Pego, who has turned himself in to U.S. authorities in Miami, is being also sought by other international authorities, including INTERPORL, in three continents for pirate fishing.
“We are pleased that Mr. Vidal is finally in the hands of the judicial system. The courts now have a chance to show those shipowners who are dealing in illegal fishing that their days of getting off scot-free are over and that the protection provided by politicians has finally come to an end” – stated Xavier Pastor, Oceana’s Executive Director in Europe.
The shipowner, Ribeira Antonio Vidal Pego, is the agent for companies such as the Uruguayan firm Fadilur, which is allegedly responsible for trying to introduce 24 ton of illegally caught black hake into the United States. He is also the agent for Spanish companies, such as Vidal Armadores S.A., which in turn is the owner of “Viarsa”. This infamous fishing boat was pursued by Australian coast guards for twenty days on being surprised when fishing illegally in Australian waters. After its capture and having been brought back to Australia in 2005 a jury acquitted it on a technicality: at the time of its capture, the “Viarsa” did not have its nets in the water and was outside the jurisdiction of Australian waters.
In spite of this background, Antonio Vidal has received grants from the General Secretariat of Maritime Fisheries for at least two years in a row; grants which amount to over €3 million. The latest one, which was awarded for “experimental fishing”, was for the sum of €1,300,000 and appeared in this year’s 3rd March issue of the Official Gazette of the Spanish State.
On benefiting from these subsidies, the shipowner Antonio Vidal has carried out a fishing campaign with another of his boats, the “Galaeicia”, which was denounced by the observer of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, who was on board, as a result of having carried out a high-sea transhipment operation to another of his boats, in this case the “Hammer” in November 2004. The latter fishing boat sails under a flag of convenience and figures on the lists of international fishing convention “pirate” ships (technically known as “boats dedicated to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing”, the so-called “IUU’s”).
The sea conservation organisation, Oceana, made public this incident, and filed a complaint with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries demanding that it open a file on the “Galaecia” as a result of the allegedly illegal transhipment of fish, and further demanded that the findings be published.
Antonio Vidal has recently threatened Oceana with a court action for slander and meddling with his right to honour, however, the General Secretariat of Maritime Fisheries confirmed in a press release of 7th March that it had, in effect, opened a file on the “Galaecia” as a result of the actions made public by Oceana.
The Miami indictment charges that in May 2004, Vidal and Fadilur “knowingly attempted to import some 53,000 pounds of toothfish from Singapore into Miami, for sale in the United States, knowing that the fish was taken and transported in violation of and in a manner unlawful under the Antartic Marine Living Resources Convention and provision of U.S. law.
“The serious situation as regards the over-exploitation of fishing stocks cannot permit either individuals, or companies, to systematically break international regulations that are attempting to protect the sustainability of the our marine resources”, concluded the marine biologist Xavier Pastor, Oceana’s Executive Director in Europe.