Conakry 9th April 2017 – Shark fins have been discovered on two Chinese fishing vessels during a joint surveillance conducted by Greenpeace and Guinean fishery authorities. One of the vessels also had illegally altered fishing nets on board, while a third Chinese vessel was caught using illegal nets and fishing for species outside of its license. The two vessels with shark fins on board have been fined with € 250 000 each, while the third vessel has been fined with € 350 000. The catch of all vessels have been seized by Guinean authorities.

Apart from the shark fins, Greenpeace also found numerous carcasses of sharks including hammerhead sharks, an endangered species, and manta rays on board several vessels.[1]

Ahmed Diame, Greenpeace Africa Oceans campaigner, said:

“What we’re seeing here is an utter lack of respect for West African fishing laws. It also shows that local laws need to be strengthened to meet international standards where endangered sharks are no longer a legal catch. That is why we are recommending that coastal states improve their monitoring capacity and local legislation to protect marine life and livelihoods of local fishing communities.”

In total, Greenpeace and local officials inspected and boarded 12 vessels during their joint surveillance this past week. These included 9 Chinese vessels, 1 Korean vessel, and 2 Guinean-flagged vessels. In one of the Chinese vessels, a letter was found issued by China’s distant water fishing association on 10th March and reminding Chinese fishing vessels to fish legally and to be cooperative with authorities’ inspections.

Pavel Klinckhamers, Campaign leader onboard the Esperanza, said:

“We thought the letter would have deterred Chinese fishing vessels from illegal activities during the period of the joint patrols, but apparently this was not the case. Several fishing vessels belonging to Chinese companies continued their illegal fishing practices, despite the warning. This shows the complete disregard of local laws by these companies, while they should behave as responsible guests in these waters”

Currently 41 demersal and pelagic vessels are licenced to operate in Guinean waters. [2] 85% are Chinese owned.

Greenpeace is demanding that West African governments take responsibility and work together to manage both foreign and local fishing activities in their waters so resources can be distributed fairly and sustainably, and a prosperous future for local communities and people living along the shores of West Africa can be safeguarded.

Details on the ships found committing irregularities:

The Lian Run 34:
Was found with shark fins on board on 31 March, 2017

The Lian Run 47:
Aerial photos show shark fins on the vessels rooftop. Inspections on 4 April uncovered shark fins hidden between crates on the ship. As well as non authorised net adjustments.

Both ships are owned by Dalian Lian Run Pelagic Fishery Company Ltd, one of China’s largest distant water fishing companies. Guinean authorities confiscated both ships’ fishing licenses, the captain’s passport, along with other navigation documents.

The Fu Yuan Yu 379:
The vessel was inspected on April 2nd 2017, inspectors found it had adjusted nets, which is illegal. Inspectors also uncovered 30 bags of shark carcasses including a huge hammerhead shark. On April 3rd, The Fu Yuan Yu 379 was spotted again fishing outside the area of its licence and having discarded the bags of sharks that was considered evidence. The vessel will likely face further sanctions.

The vessel is owned by Fujian Pingtan Hengli Fishery Company Ltd. The vessel has been fined for illegal net adjustments which is categorised under ‘very serious’ infraction of Guinean law. Current legislation does not penalise sharks being caught as a bycatch.

Photos and video footage available here

Please also find a Greenpeace briefing here.

Media contacts

  • Contact onboard the Esperanza: [email protected], project leader, Greenpeace Netherlands, +31 107130874
  • International media enquiries: [email protected], communications coordinator, Greenpeace Nordic, +45 28109021
  • African media enquiries: [email protected], communications officer, Greenpeace Africa, Senegal office, +221 773336265
  • Chinese media enquiries: [email protected], communications officer, Greenpeace East Asia Beijing Office, +86 186-0127-7872

Notes to editors:

The Esperanza, is on an expedition in West Africa to document the threat from overfishing to the marine environment and food security for millions of Africans depending on fish. The crew on board with the support of fishing authorities from coastal countries in the West Africa aim to reduce the number of vessels fishing illegally or committing different offense.

[1] Many species of sharks are exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing. The global catch and mortality of sharks from reported and unreported landings, discards, and shark finning are being estimated at about 1.4 million metric tons. Based on an analysis of average shark weights, this translates into a total annual mortality estimate of about 100 million sharks. (Worm, et al 2013: global catches, exploitation rates and rebuilding options for sharks. Marine Policy volume 40.

[2] There are currently 41 licensed demersal and pelagic fishing vessels operating in Guinean waters, of which 35 are Chinese, 2 Korean, and 4 Guinean with Russian interests. During the joint-surveillance, Greenpeace and local officials inspected and boarded 10 vessels in total, including 7 Chinese vessels, 1 Korean vessel, and 2 Guinean-flagged vessels.