The Viarsa chapter
To a large extent the region of Galicia – home to Europe’s largest fishing port, Vigo – is still reliant on fish even though the waters of the European Union are among the most exploited in the world.
It is here in Galicia that a handful of families have pulled the strings of a transnational network of vessels. And it’s the Vidal family that helped many get into the business by navigating the vessel registration process in Uruguay – a base from which many of the blacklisted ships operated. The Vidals set up offices in Montevideo, hired locals to manage and – when legal claims were brought – to take the blame, court records show.
It was one of those Uruguay-flagged vessels, the Viarsa 1, that put the Vidals on the radar of law enforcement officials around the world.
The Viarsa was spotted in a 2003 suspected illegal fishing operation at Heard Island near the Antarctic Peninsula. Two years and two trials later, the Vidal affiliate that owned the vessel was acquitted in court. The defense had argued that the toothfish in the Viarsa’s hold had been caught before the vessel entered Australian waters. …