Operation Sola Stella concludes a successful campaign to combat illegal fishing in Liberia

Thursday, May 18, 2017

On the 7th of May 2017, Sea Shepherd Global concluded Operation Sola Stella, a joint operation in partnership with the Liberian Ministry of National Defense to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Republic of Liberia, West Africa. Three months of at-sea patrols resulted in the arrest of five vessels associated with IUU fishing.

Since the 2nd of February 2017, working with the Liberian Coast Guard, under the coordination of the Honorable Minister Brownie Samukai, the Sea Shepherd vessel M/Y Bob Barker patrolled Liberia’s coastline with ten Liberian Coast Guard sailors on board with the authority to board, inspect and arrest ships violating Liberian law, and two Israeli maritime advisors and conservationists who provided training assistance.

Liberian Coast Guard sailors train on board the MY Bob Barker. Photo by Alejandra Gimeno/Sea Shepherd.

Prior to the arrival of the M/Y Bob Barker in Liberia, the artisanal fishing community of Harper, a Liberian town on the border with Cote d’Ivoire, complained of almost daily incursions by foreign industrial trawlers fishing illegally.

“The Liberian Coast Guard answered the call of Liberia’s artisanal fishermen, by partnering with Sea Shepherd Global to take back our seas from the poachers. With the arrest of five vessels, we have sent a clear message: if you come to Liberia to fish illegally, then you will be arrested”, said Hon Minister Brownie Samukai.

The FV Star Shrimper XXV arrested in Liberia. Photo by Alejandra Gimeno/Sea Shepherd.

One of the vessels arrested was the Nigerian-flagged, Dutch-owned, FV Star Shrimper XXV, a shrimp trawler certified by the US Department of State to export shrimp to the United States because of the use of measures to reduce by-catch including turtles. The FV Star Shrimper XXV was caught fishing in Liberian waters without a valid fishing permit and further, was not using the legally-required Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) necessary as per the certification scheme.

Sea Shepherd also assisted the Liberian Coast Guard to arrest a refrigerated cargo vessel for identity fraud and IUU fishing. The refrigerated cargo vessel was arrested for transmitting a false identity to the Liberian port authorities where it was planning to offload 460 tons of undocumented fish cargo.

The Lian Run, a 'reefer' arrested in Liberia. Photo by Alejandra Gimeno/Sea Shepherd.

Three other vessels were arrested for a long list of violations ranging from fishing without a license to illegal transshipment to attempted bribery of a law enforcement officer.

“In the last month of patrolling Liberian waters, Sea Shepherd has not come across any IUU fishing activity, indicating that law enforcement at-sea is having a deterrent effect. The arrest of five vessels, and the deterrence of further criminality, speaks to the success of Operation Sola Stella and the professionalism of the Liberian Coast Guard," said Campaign Leader Peter Hammarstedt

"We are proud of our successful partnership with the government of Liberia and intend to continue our shared fight against IUU fishing in the future."

Captain Peter Hammarstedt, Campaign Leader

Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing, which accounts for up to 40% of the fish caught in West African waters. The campaign helped Liberia crack down on unlicensed foreign industrial vessels operating in its waters and protect the six nautical miles closest to shore reserved for subsistence, artisanal and semi-artisanal fishing, which employs 33,000 Liberians.

In 2016 Sea Shepherd partnered with the government of Gabon for Operation Albacore, resulting in over 40 fishing vessel inspections at sea and the subsequent arrest of three IUU Congolese fishing trawlers and one Spanish long-liner. Operation Sola Stella is a continuation of Sea Shepherd Global’s commitment to work with national governments to help end IUU fishing.

Learn more about Operation Sola Stella

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