Illegal Fishers with Dead Baby Sharks Arrested in Nighttime Raid

Monday, 30 Sep, 2019

On the 19th of September, armed Gabonese law enforcement agents who were working on board the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker stormed the Congolese-flagged Tchilassi in a nighttime raid as it illegally set its purse seine fishing net in the protected waters of Mayumba National Park on the border between Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville, off the coast of Central West Africa. Photos by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.

Gabonese navy sailor on board the Tchilassi. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.

The Bob Barker, under the command of British Captain Julian McGale, was on the last hours of a border patrol of Mayumba National Park before planning to head back to port when the Tchilassi was detected on the ship’s radar. 

Gabonese navy sailors on board the Tchilassi. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.

Gabonese authorities immediately instructed for the Bob Barker’s small boats to be launched to intercept the intruding fishing vessel, since Mayumba National Park was created largely to preserve the nesting site of endangered species of sea turtles. Gabon is one of the most important nesting habitats in the world with 30% of the world’s sea turtles transiting through Gabonese waters annually.

Gabonese eco-guard inspecting evidence on the bridge of the Tchilassi. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.

Once on board the fishing vessel, Gabonese fisheries inspectors discovered seven dead baby sharks and two devil rays in the ship’s fish hold along with many tons of fish. The boarding party was joined by Mike Fay, world-renowned conservationist with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence and Advisor to the President.

Dead baby shark and devil ray in the fish hold. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.

The arrest was preceded by the arrest of the Haixin 27, also caught operating illegally in the waters of Gabon, two months earlier through Operation Albacore IV, a joint operation between Sea Shepherd and the Gabonese government to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; the arrest followed the apprehension of an Angolan pirogue fishing illegally and the issuance of a fine against a local trawler for not carrying the proper documentation earlier the same day.

The Tchilassi arrested and under escort to Port Gentil. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.

Two years ago, Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba declared the creation of nine new national marine parks and 11 new aquatic reserves at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York, amounting to the largest network of marine protected areas in Africa.

Captain Julian McGale on the deck of the Tchilassi. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.

Operation Albacore IV aims to continue defending Gabon’s newly-established marine protected areas, to detect and deter IUU fishing activity while also monitoring legal compliance by licensed fishing operators, and to expand existing monitoring, control and surveillance measures.

Read More about Operation Albacore

Captain Julian McGale with dead sharks on the Tchilassi. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.
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