Commentary by Captain Peter Hammarstedt
On the 2nd of April 2018, the Liberian Coast Guard, assisted by the Sea Shepherd vessel M/Y Bob Barker, boarded the Spanish-flagged F/V Cedes for a routine inspection, and found all cargo and fish holds in accordance with the Liberian fisheries protocol. Despite a public statement issued by the ship owner ORPAGU, the vessel was neither detained nor arrested by the Liberian Coast Guard. Response by Sea Shepherd Director of Campaigns, Captain Peter Hammarstedt.
In this statement, ORPAGU also suggests that Sea Shepherd operatives forced the F/V Cedes crew to fin sharks in order to demonstrate an alleged violation of the EU Finning Ban (2013). That accusation is preposterous, especially considering that no subsequent enforcement action was taken against the F/V Cedes.
On entry into the cargo hold of the F/V Cedes, the Liberian Coast Guard discovered six severed shark fins that did not correspond to a trunk (torso). The discovery of the six severed shark fins was cause for the Liberian Coast Guard to further investigate the cargo on board, and out of the 187 blues sharks found, approximately 50% of the sharks had their fins detached fully from the torso, either by being sliced completely off or “snapped-off during cold storage”. These findings will be submitted to the EU Directorate-General of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare).
The European Union Finning Ban (1185/2003) and its amendment (605/2013), requires any captured sharks to be landed with their Fins Naturally Attached (FNA). The European Union Finning Ban was passed as a conservation measure to ensure that shark bodies are not discarded at sea in order to make room for the more valuable shark fins, resulting in far more sharks killed than would otherwise be the case. Sharks are being killed in increasingly large numbers to meet an Asian demand for fins to make shark fin soup. One-third of shark species are overfished to the extent that they risk extinction.
Finally, ORPAGU further alludes to a case of a Spanish long-liner boarded and inspected in Sao Tomean waters in 2017. The F/V Baz was fined under Sao Tomean law for violating Sao Tomean fisheries regulations.
The President of ORPAGU has publicly announced that its associated vessels do not engage in shark finning — and, if they are found to do so, they will be expelled from the group.
Since February 2017, under the name Operation Sola Stella, Sea Shepherd has been assisting the government of Liberia to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by providing the use of a civilian offshore patrol vessel operating in Liberian waters, under the direction of the Liberian Ministry of National Defense. Operation Sola Stella has resulted in the arrest of twelve vessels for IUU fishing activity.
The Liberian Coast Guard has the authority to board and inspect any vessel in Liberian waters. Responsible fishing operators welcome these boardings and inspections at sea because they ensure legal compliance and sustainability. Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing, which accounts for up to 40% of the fish caught in West African waters.