Operation Sola Stella Results in 15th Arrest for Fisheries Crime
Monday, 15 Apr, 2019
In 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, Sea Shepherd has assisted the Liberian Coast Guard with the arrest of a foreign-flagged purse seine fishing vessel with a criminal history of illegal fishing in Liberia.
The fishing vessel (F/V) Solevant, a 55-meter purse seiner flagged to Senegal, was boarded for an inspection by the Liberian Coast Guard from a small boat belonging to the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker on April 7th as the vessel was known to have been previously convicted and fined in 2012 by Liberian authorities for unlicensed fishing activities, undeclared catches, and the use of a forged Liberian fishing license.
During the subsequent inspection, the captain of the Solevant provided Liberian Coast Guard inspectors with a copy of an alleged Liberian fishing license. Under the Liberian Fisheries Regulations, the original or a certified copy, must be carried on board in order to prevent fraud.
The license number attributed to the alleged license copy was the same as the number issued for another vessel, namely the F/V Panofi Discoverer.
“Two vessels cannot operate using the same license number and the Liberian Coast Guard’s suspicions were bolstered by the vessel’s previous conviction of using a forged Liberian fishing license in 2012. Tigers don’t readily change their stripes which is why the Liberian Coast Guard was left with no choice but to arrest the vessel."Hon Daniel Ziankahn Jr., Liberia’s Minister of National Defense
The captain was also unable to provide a fishing log book, which is used to prove where the fish was caught, as well as a cargo manifest, a legal requirement for documenting the fish already on board. It is common practice among illegal operators to not officially log their catch and cargo.
“In 2012 satellite tracking proved that the Solevant, then operating under the name Santa Maria, was fishing illegally in the Liberian EEZ in February, June, July and September of that year. The vessel was found to be carrying a forged Liberian fishing license. The vessel has now returned to Liberian waters, using the fishing license number of another vessel, a ploy that did not escape the vigilance of the Liberian Coast Guard supported by Australian Captain Anteo Broadfield and the Bob Barker crew”, said Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns for Sea Shepherd Global.
The Solevant was arrested and escorted by the Liberian Coast Guard and the Bob Barker to the Port of Monrovia.
The apprehension of the Solevant is the 15th arrest of a vessel for fisheries crimes in Liberian waters since February 2017 when the partnership – named Operation Sola Stella – started between Liberia’s Ministry of National Defense and Sea Shepherd.
On February 11, 2019, Sea Shepherd was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) by Liberian President Dr. George Manneh Weah in recognition of the success of Operation Sola Stella. The DSO is the highest military award given by the Ministry of National Defense and the Armed Forces of Liberia, recognizing exceptional service to the Republic of Liberia.
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