Taking charges of illegal fishing seriously, the Nigerian government recalled a “sustainably-certified” shrimping trawler arrested in Liberian waters in March 2017 and held it in detention for three months until the vessel’s owner fired the captain and chief engineer.
On March 13, 2017, the Liberian Coast Guard arrested the Nigerian-flagged Fishing Vessel (F/V) Star Shrimper XXV with the assistance of Sea Shepherd crew for committing several offenses (see article here). It was actively fishing without a Liberian fishing license, apprehended in an inshore exclusion zone (IEZ) reserved for local artisanal fishermen, and caught fishing without the mandatory Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) required of all “sustainably-certified” shrimp trawlers.
The Star Shrimper XXV is part of a fleet of ‘sustainably-certified’ fishing vessels owned by Atlantic Shrimpers Ltd that is licensed by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to export shrimp to the United States. Certification requires vessels to use TEDs to reduce by-catch of turtles. Known as the “Section 609” certification process, this program extends TED requirements to vessels of nations importing shrimp to the United States. TEDs are grates attached to the mouths of shrimp trawl nets that keep sea turtles and other marine life out of the nets. Given that the United States is the world’s largest single importer of shrimp, the Section 609 program serves as a critical tool in the protection of sea turtles (and other marine life) around the world.
Following the arrest of the Star Shrimper XXV, Sea Shepherd Global worked with Sea Shepherd Legal to formally request that the DOS investigate “sustainable” shrimp fisheries in Nigeria (see article here). On December 20th, the DOS informed Sea Shepherd Legal that after being fined and subsequently released by Liberian authorities after more than a two-month detention, the Star Shrimper XXV was recalled to Nigeria, the vessel’s flag state under whose laws it’s registered.
According to information provided by the DOS, the government of Nigeria took immediate action against the Star Shrimper XXV, seizing the Star Shrimper XXV on arrival and holding it for three months while the vessel’s owner, Atlantic Shrimpers Limited, suspended the crew for 90 days and fired the captain and chief engineer.
For fishing without a license in Liberian waters, the Star Shrimper XXV was essentially suspended from fishing for six months, resulting in a strong deterrent for other vessels, while saving the lives of many sea turtles. Sea Shepherd commends the Government of Nigeria for taking its responsibilities as the flag state seriously.
“We are pleased that in the case of the Star Shrimper XXV, action was taken against the vessel by both Liberia and the flag state. Given that Atlantic Shrimpers Ltd is part of a massive fleet of 70 Nigerian shrimping vessels, we hope that this action will serve as a deterrent to future criminal activity”, said Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns for Sea Shepherd Global.
Sea Shepherd’s Partnerships to Stop Illegal Fishing
Since February 2017, under the name Operation Sola Stella, the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd has been assisting the Government of Liberia to tackle illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing by providing the use of Sea Shepherd’s civilian offshore patrol vessels and experienced crew, operating in Liberian waters under the direction of the Liberian Ministry of National Defense. The patrols have thus far resulted in the arrest of eight IUU fishing vessels. Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing, which accounts for up to 40% of the fish caught in West African waters.
In 2016 Sea Shepherd partnered with the government of Gabon for Operation Albacore, resulting in over 40 fishing vessel inspections at sea and the subsequent arrest of three IUU Congolese fishing trawlers and one Spanish long-liner. Operation Sola Stella is a continuation of Sea Shepherd Global’s commitment to work actively with national governments and their Law Enforcement Agencies in the fight against IUU fishing.