On July 24th, while the MY Bob Barker visited port in between patrols of Operation Albacore IV - a joint operation between Sea Shepherd and the Gabonese government to tackle illegal fishing - Gabon's National Agency of National Parks busted a local trawler, the Guoji 827, fishing illegally in the protected waters of Loango National Park.
Loango National Park is a unique wildlife area made famous by National Geographic explorer-in-residence Mike Fay and photographer Mike Nichols who called Loango the "land of surfing hippos" because of the tendency of Gabon's hippos to wade out to sea in order to use currents to transit the coast. It is one of the few places in the world where elephant, hippo and gorilla can be seen cohabitating on wild beaches.
The Guoji 827 was detected - using remote surveillance technologies - entering the marine park on four separate occasions, resulting in Gabonese authorities issuing an arrest warrant for the vessel. Shortly thereafter, a coastal interception watercraft manned by eco-guards of the ANPN executed the warrant and placed the vessel under arrest. The vessel and its 20-ton cargo of fish is presently under detention in Port Gentil, Gabon.
“The success of Operation Albacore IV lies in the synergy and cooperation between Sea Shepherd and three Gabonese government agencies. It is likely that the Guoji 827 was informed by a sister ship that the Bob Barker was in port, so the arrest of the trawler sends a strong message to fishing operators that Gabon’s eco-guards, marines and fisheries inspectors vigilantly defend Gabon’s marine parks around-the-clock. Sea Shepherd congratulates its Gabonese partners on both the successful apprehension and the continued defense of its unique marine wildlife”, said Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd Global’s Director of Campaigns.
Two years ago, Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba declared the creation of nine new national marine parks and 11 new aquatic reserves at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York, amounting to the largest network of marine protected areas in Africa.
One of the 'surfing hippos' of Gabon, by Mike Nichols
Operation Albacore IV aims to continue defending these marine protected areas, to detect and deter illegal fishing activity while also monitoring legal compliance by licensed fishing operators, and to expand existing monitoring, control and surveillance measures.
On July 5th, the Bob Barker assisted authorities to arrest the Haixin 27, a foreign fishing trawler caught inside the Grand Sud du Gabon Aquatic Reserve. The Haixin 27 remains detained in Port Gentil alongside the Guoji 827.
*All images courtesy of Sea Shepherd