FISH-i Africa partnership makes progress as Seychelles denies port access to suspected illegal fishing vessel
Illegal fishing is a worldwide problem.
Pew is confident that the successes of FISH-i
Africa can be replicated around the world.
A recently launched Southeast African partnership to crack down on illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean continues to produce early victories. On March 26, the government of the Seychelles Islands denied port entry to the South Korean tuna fishing vessel, Premier, due to suspected illegal fishing. The purse seiner was attempting to come to port in Victoria to offload its catch.
This bold step by the Seychelles follows a string of related actions by African countries, including the uncovering of forged documents that led several Southeast African nations to deny fishing licenses to the Premier. Five countries in the region – Comoros, Kenya, Mozambique, Seychelles and the United Republic of Tanzania – are members of FISH-i Africa, a project supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts and Stop Illegal Fishing, a not-for-profit group committed to ending the devastating impacts of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in all African fisheries. FISH-i Africa is intended to boost cooperation and communication in the region to help those governments identify, monitor and initiate enforcement actions against suspected illegal fishers.
In denying the Premier port access, the Seychelles cited a provision in the Port State Measures Resolution of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) – the fisheries management organization with jurisdiction over the area – that a State may block a vessel from landing or transhipment of fish if the State has “reasonable grounds” to believe that the vessel was engaged in IUU fishing.
Stop Illegal Fishing has been involved in the collection and reporting of evidence linking the Premier to IUU fishing activities in Africa since 2012. That evidence includes:
- February 2012 – Stop Illegal Fishing reports on Illegal Fishing in West Africa, including naming the Premier as a vessel being monitored for fishing illegally in Liberian waters.
- December 2012 – Facilitated by FISH-i and Stop Illegal Fishing, Liberia sends an official request to the Mauritian government for assistance and inspection of the Premier. An inspection takes place and several documents are found that confirm the suspicions of illegal fishing in Liberian waters.
- January 2013 – Several FISH-i Africa countries in the Western Indian Ocean deny a fishing licence to the Premier due to the ongoing IUU case in Liberia.
- January 2013 – An employee of Dongwon Industries, the Korean firm that owns the Premier, forwards two letters to the Government of Kenya, supposedly addressed from the Liberian Authorities to the vessel's Flag State, South Korea, implying that the IUU fishing suspicion was a misunderstanding.
- January 2013 – The letters Dongwon forwarded to Kenyan authorities are confirmed by Liberia's Bureau of National Fisheries to be forged.
- February 2013 – As a result of this and other stories, the British government raises concerns over imports of canned tuna that may contain illegally caught fish from West Africa
- March 15, 2013 – The Government of Liberia releases a press statement refuting allegations made by Dongwon Industries that they are the "victim of fraud" by Liberian fisheries officials.
- March 26, 2013 – Seychelles denies the Premier's request to offload its catch in their port. It is unclear what species or what volume of fish the Premier had on board.
None of this progress in fighting illegal fishing would have been possible without significant and persistent information sharing and cooperation among the FISH-i Africa countries. This success has come just months after the launch of FISH-i Africa, which connects partners on a real-time basis to share information and intelligence to enable them to make decisions and take action against suspected illegal operators. Along with direct support from Pew and Stop Illegal Fishing, FISH-i also has assistance from the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the Indian Ocean Commission’s SmartFish Project.
FISH-i Africa faces a challenging road ahead to end illegal fishing in the region. But the early progress is encouraging, both in actual enforcement of IUU fishing violations and in empowering developing States to defend and manage their valuable natural resources.