West African Patrol Nets Another Trawler
Monday, Sep 09, 2019
Four days after a joint operation in partnership with the government of The Gambia to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in West Africa, saw the arrest of two industrial trawlers for a number of fisheries offense, law enforcement agents representing the Gambian Department of Fisheries and The Gambia Navy on board the Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon have apprehended a third trawler.
On the 1st of September, the fishing vessel Mohamed was arrested by Gambian fisheries inspectors and The Gambia Navy – supported by Sea Shepherd crew - for 15 counts of fishing within The Gambia’s nine-nautical mile Special Management Area reserved for artisanal fishermen in the past month.
The incursions were confirmed both by the vessels’ own fishing log book as well as historical tracks from the automatic identification system (AIS), or locational transponder, on board. The AIS was not actively transmitting at the time of boarding, indicating efforts to conceal the vessel’s position and activity from law enforcement, but AIS data is stored in searchable archives allowing a historical review of a vessel’s location and speed.
The waters of The Gambia are particularly rich in biodiversity as the country is positioned where the nutrient-rich Gambia River meets the Canary Current. The livelihoods of over 200,000 Gambians are directly or indirectly dependent on local fisheries while the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) believes that more than 46% of the assessed fish populations in the Eastern Central Atlantic are experiencing overfishing.
Sardinella and other small pelagic species are of critical importance to Gambians which is why the Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources instituted a nine-nautical mile Special Management Area to conserve waters frequented by artisanal fishermen. However, industrial trawlers routinely come close to the shoreline with artisanal fishermen making daily complaints to the Ministry asking for compensation for nets lost to industrial trawlers running them over. Populations of sardinella are also rapidly declining due to these daily incursions.
The Mohamed is presently detained in the Gambian Port of Banjul, along with Lu Lao Yuan Yu 010 and Victory 205.
With three arrests in less than a week, the Honorable James Furmos Peter Gomez, Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources, is showing the leadership needed to clean up illegal fishing in the waters of The Gambia. Although the patrolling presence of the Sam Simon is now known - and trawlers are therefore deterred from entering the Special Management Area - the honorable minister is sending a clear message that past offenses will be investigatedPeter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd Global’s Director of Campaigns.
Sea Shepherd’s partnership with The Gambia, named Operation Gambian Coastal Defense, marks the seventh African costal State to join a growing effort to stop illegal fishing around the African continent through joint at-sea patrols.
Since 2016, Sea Shepherd has been working in partnership with the governments of Gabon, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tanzania, Benin and Namibia to combat IUU fishing by providing the use of civilian offshore patrol vessels to African coastal states so that authorities can enforce fisheries regulations and conservation laws in their sovereign waters. To date, the unique partnerships have resulted in the arrest of 35 vessels for illegal fishing and other fisheries crimes.