How Sea Shepherd Helps Combat Illegal Fishing

Saturday, 15 Sep, 2018

The key to stopping IUU fishing is monitoring, control and surveillance, especially the enforcement of existing laws and regulations protecting marine wildlife, people and the environment. However, many African coastal and island states do not currently have offshore patrol vessels that can cover the entirety of their waters, meaning that legal fishing vessels are able to operate without being boarded and inspected for legal compliance; and unscrupulous fishing vessels fish without licenses, fish using prohibited fishing gear, exceed quotas, fish in marine protected areas, target endangered and protected species and commit labor abuses.

Gabonese soldiers train for fishing vessel inspections on board Sea Shepherd's M/V Bob Barker. Photo by Tony Fenn James/Sea Shepherd.

Sea Shepherd is different from other marine conservation groups because we measure our success by the number of criminal operations that we shut down - and the amount of marine wildlife that we save. We are the only civil society actor signing so-called 'ship rider' agreements with governments, providing civilian offshore patrol vessels (COPVs) so that authorities from partner countries can enforce fisheries and conservation laws in their sovereign waters. While each partnership is unique and tailored to different countries’ needs, generally the partner country provides the naval, fisheries or police law enforcement agents, and Sea Shepherd provides the crewed COPV and fuel - as well as training and capacity-building throughout the duration of each IUU fishing campaign. This allows our partners to gain real at-sea experience patrolling, monitoring, controlling and arresting illegal fishing vessels so that they can hit the ground running when purchasing and maintaining their own offshore patrol vessels in the future.


In addition to national governments, Sea Shepherd also works with existing programs like Fish-i Africa and supports Interpol's Project Scale to amplify respective efforts to stop IUU fishing without duplicating each other's work.

Sea Shepherd CEO Alex Cornelissen and Director of Campaigns Peter Hammarstedt with Mozambique Minister Agostinho Mondale. Photo by Alba Treadwell/Sea Shepherd.

Working Towards Regional Partnerships

While the legal authority to board, inspect and arrest vessels currently ends at the border of each country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), new partnerships with neighboring African coastal and island states joining forces in the fight against IUU fishing allows the pursuit of vessels across borders, facilitates skill sharing between law enforcement authorities, and strengthens communications between regional actors.



Sea Shepherd assists Liberia authorities with inspections of a commercial fishing vessel. Photo by Melissa Romao/Sea Shepherd.
Share this
Take Action for the Oceans!

We Need Your Support