Greenpeace and Guinea Bissau authorities arrest fishing vessels for multiple infringements

by Perry Wheeler

March 28, 2017

Guinea Bissau - Four fishing vessels have been arrested in Guinea Bissau waters after joint patrols by Greenpeace and the Fisheries Surveillance Department of Guinea Bissau (FISCAP) found multiple fishing infringements. The vessels were brought to port and are being investigated by local authorities for illegal transshipment at sea, failure to display readable names on the vessels, non-payment of fines, and the use of illegal fishing equipment.

“The fact that we managed to come across such a high number of vessels breaking the law in only a few days really confirms the alarming ‘Wild-West’ situation in the waters of West Africa,” said Pavel Klinckhamers, project leader on board Greenpeace’s Esperanza ship. “Fishing companies and crews have gotten used to exploiting Guinea Bissau’s insufficiently managed waters, and our findings show that illegal operations are most likely taking place on a daily basis.”

On March 22, the crew and three inspectors on board the Esperanza caught Comoros-flagged Saly Reefer in the act of an illegal transshipment with fishing vessels Flipper 3, Flipper 4 and Flipper 5, also flying Comoros flags. [1] Transshipment at sea is frequently linked to illegal fishing and was banned by the government of Guinea Bissau in 2015.

Shortly after the first inspection of the Saly Reefer and Flipper 4 by the Greenpeace crew and inspectors, both vessels were escorted to the port of Bissau. The ships are owned by Las Palmas-based Sea Group SL, which now faces legal action and a fine.

Greenpeace has urged global seafood companies, including canned tuna giant Thai Union, to address transshipment at sea. Earlier this month, pet food companies Mars and Nestlé committed to tackle transshipment in their supply chains, increasing pressure on seafood suppliers like Thai Union to act. In addition to illegal fishing, the practice is often associated with human rights abuses and trafficking.

On March 21, three Chinese-flagged fishing vessels — Yi Feng 8, Yi Feng 9, and Yi Feng 10 — were spotted 50 nautical miles from the shore of Guinea Bissau by Greenpeace and the inspectors. The vessels’ names were written in Chinese only, even though all fishing vessels are required by law to carry easily recognizable names. All three vessels are owned by the same Chinese company, Dalian Zhangzidao Yi Feng Aquatic Product Company Ltd. One of the vessels, the Yi Feng 8 was arrested and sent to port, while the other two managed to escape. However, their infringements were well documented and ensure that they will be prosecuted.

On March 24, Greenpeace and the inspectors spotted another Chinese vessel, the Chang Yuan Yu 05, fishing off the coast of the Bijagos Archipelago. The vessel is known by local authorities, as its owners have failed to pay a fine for the use of illegal nets in September 2016. The vessel was boarded, arrested, and taken back to the port of Bissau, where it will be detained until the fine is paid.

Dr Ibrahima Cisse, Ocean Campaign Manager in Greenpeace Africa, said:

“West Africa is the only region in the world where fish consumption is declining due to over-exploitation of resources by too many vessels and illegal fishing operations. The repercussions of fish stock depletion on food security and the economy in some of the most vulnerable countries in the world is extremely concerning and must be tackled. In West Africa, where people rely heavily on fish as one of their main sources of protein, it is a vital source of income and employment for nearly seven million people. That is why we strongly encourage West African governments to set up a regional fisheries management body.”

Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) in West Africa is estimated to reduce the number of jobs in artisanal sectors by 300,000. From 2010 to 2016, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, and Sierra Leone lost around 2.3 billion USD annually in revenues, while a minimal amount of 13 million USD was recovered through Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS). The highest number of IUU incidents in the West African region occurred in Guinea Bissau. In 2014, Guinea Bissau authorities documented as many as eight vessels fishing illegally during just one week of patrol. However, sanctions for breaking the law at sea in Guinea Bissau are either too weak or the law is not enforced properly. [2]

About the Expedition

The Esperanza is currently on an expedition in West Africa to document the threat of overfishing to the marine environment and food security for millions of Africans depending on fish to survive. An expanding number of fishing operations are operating in these rich waters — not only foreign fleets, but also by an increasing number of domestic, industrial fishing vessels. The Esperanza has already visited Cape Verde and Mauritania and now Guinea Bissau, where the joint patrol between Greenpeace and FISCAP was set up as a result of a special request from President José Mário Vaz, Guinea Bissau. The Esperanza will continue to engage in joint surveillance with local authorities in selected West African countries until the beginning of May.

Greenpeace is campaigning for the setup of a strong, regional management body in West Africa to ensure transparency, improvement of governance, and a positive impact on  the local economy and employment in all countries in this region.

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Notes for editors:

Photos and footage available at: http://act.gp/2miRN9f
Please also find a Greenpeace briefing here.

Details of the vessels encountered: 

Yi Feng 8: 45 meter long demersal trawler, weight 247 GT, owned by Yi Feng Aquatic Products Company – a company based in Dalian, China. Yi Feng 8 is registered under the local company in Guinea Bissau called Guiespa Pesca Lda.

Flipper 4 and Saly Reefer: 62 meter long stern trawler, boarded while actively transshipping its catch to the 91 meter long, 1815 ton Saly Reefer. Both vessels fly the flag of Comoros, owned by Sea Group SL based in Las Palmas, Spain. Before Greenpeace and FISCAP boarded the vessels, two other vessels of the same company, Flipper 3 and Flipper 5 were documented transshipping with the Saly Reefer. These fishing vessels turned off their AIS signal while alongside the reefer vessel. Catch that has been recorded from these vessels include pelagic fish like sardines, sardinella, horse mackerel, and blue mackerel.

The Chang Yuan Yu 5: 45 meter long stern trawler fishing for demersal and pelagic fish,  weight 322 GT, owned by Dalian Chang Hai Pelagic Fishery Company, a company based in Dalian, China.

Notes:

[1] Information about transshipment here: http://www.itintl.com/what-is-transshipment.html 

[2] The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concludes, that the majority of pelagic and demersal fish in West Africa’s waters are either fully exploited or overexploited. In 2009, FAO said, the region had the highest rate of overfishing with 54% of all analyzed fish overexploited.

[3] More information about illegal fishing in the region here: Assessing the Effectiveness of Monitoring Control and Surveillance of Illegal Fishing  and here:
The Case of West Africa.

Contact details:

Contact on board the Esperanza: Pavel Klinckhamers, project leader, Greenpeace Netherlands, pklinckh@greenpeace.org, +31 107130874
International media inquiries: Christina Koll, communications coordinator, Greenpeace Nordic, ckoll@greenpeace.org , +45 28109021
US media inquiries: Perry Wheeler, global seafood communications and outreach manager, Greenpeace USA, perry.wheeler@greenpeace.org, +1 301 675 8766

Perry Wheeler

By Perry Wheeler

Perry Wheeler is global seafood communications and outreach manager at Greenpeace USA.

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