On 13 March, Star Shrimper XXV, a Nigerian-flagged fishing vessel was boarded in Liberian waters by the Liberian Coast Guard, assisted by Sea Shepherd crew, Israeli maritime advisors and conservationists. The vessel was fishing without a Liberian license, a serious offense under the Liberian Fisheries Regulations which carries a fine of up to USD 1,000,000.
The trawler was detected by radar as it entered Liberian waters from the Ivory Coast. The Liberian Coast Guard quickly mobilized on board Sea Shepherd's M/Y Bob Barker and discovered the vessel actively fishing with its trawling gear in the water.
Star Shrimper XXV is part of a fleet of fishing vessels owned by Atlantic Shrimpers Ltd, is certified by the US Department of State to export shrimp to the United States because of a commitment to use measures to avoid by-catch such as turtles. Certified under 'Friend of the Sea' criteria for sustainable fishing of Black Tiger Prawns, these vessels are required to comply with legal requirements including valid fishing permits.
The Star Shrimper XXV fishing in Liberian waters. Copyright Alejandre Gimeno/Sea Shepherd Global
Campaign Leader Peter Hammarstedt said,
“It is not without irony that while the Star Shrimper XXV had by-catch limitation devices like Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) on board (which they were not using during the time of their arrest), they deliberately entered Liberian waters to fish illegally without a license. Had it not been for the intervention of the Liberian Coast Guard and Sea Shepherd, the illegal catch of the Star Shrimper XXV would have been sold in American and European markets as ‘sustainably-certified’. Sea Shepherd Global urges the United States Department of State to seriously review their import agreement with Atlantic Shrimpers Limited.”
Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which accounts for as much as 40% of the fish caught in West African waters.
Since February 2017, Sea Shepherd has been assisting the government of Liberia to tackle this problem under the name Operation Sola Stella, providing use of M/Y Bob Barker as a civilian offshore patrol vessel under the direction of the Liberian Ministry of National Defense. The patrols have so far resulted in the arrest of four IUU fishing vessels.
Liberian Coast Guard approach the Star Shrimper XXV. Copyright Michael Rauch/Sea Shepherd Global
The Honorable Minister Brownie Samukai, Minister of National Defense for Liberia, commented,
“Since the outset of the Liberian Ministry of National Defense’s cooperation with Sea Shepherd, I have stated that the time for illegal fishing is over. With the arrest of four IUU fishing vessels in such a short period of time, the Liberian Coast Guard is executing my zero tolerance policy on illegal fishing, taking back our seas from poachers who have come in to our waters for too long.”
In 2016 Sea Shepherd partnered with the government of Gabon for Operation Albacore, resulting in the inspection of over 40 fishing vessels at sea, with subsequent arrest of three IUU Congolese fishing trawlers and one Spanish long-liner. Operation Sola Stella is part of Sea Shepherd Global’s ongoing commitment to work with national governments to help end IUU fishing.
About Sea Shepherd Global
Sea Shepherd is an international non-profit marine conservation movement to defend, conserve and protect the worlds oceans and marine wildlife. Founded by Captain Paul Watson in 1977, Sea Shepherd has independent national and regional entities in over 20 countries, united by a common mission through Sea Shepherd Global based in Amsterdam. Sea Shepherd investigates and records violations of national and international conservation laws, enforcing conservation measures where legal authority exists.