Ten Trawlers Arrested in Covert Nighttime Sweeps Along Coast of The Gambia

Thursday, 17 Oct, 2019

Gambian law enforcement agents with the Department of Fisheries and The Gambia Navy worked with Sea Shepherd to covertly apprehend and arrest ten trawlers fishing illegally in The Gambia through several coordinated nighttime sweeps. Photos by Leon Greiner/Sea Shepherd.


Sam Simon small boat on patrol. Scroll right to see more photos.
The Gambia Navy sailor with trawlers.
F/V Hazem documented with net in the water inside Special Management Area
The Gambia Navy sailors board the F/V Hazem
Illegal catch on board the F/V Superfly 4
Gambian fisheries inspector with catch of the F/V Superfly 4
Nighttime boarding of F/V Superfly 4
The arrested Hansen vessels.
The Gambia Navy sailor on board fishing vessel
The Gambia Navy sailor detains crewman.
The Gambia Navy sailor on board fishing vessels.
Sam Simon small boat escorting trawlers.

The joint operation occurred after the Sea Shepherd ship M/Y Sam Simon, which has been patrolling the waters of The Gambia since the end of August, left The Gambia for the neighboring country of Cabo Verde in order to plan a clandestine return under the leadership of the Honorable James Furmos Peter Gomez, The Gambia’s Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources.

The departure of the Sam Simon from The Gambia gave local fishing trawlers the impression that patrols, which had already resulted in the arrest of four industrial trawlers for a number of fisheries offenses, had concluded. During the time of the patrols, the presence of the Sam Simon deterred trawlers from entering a Special Management Area extending nine nautical miles from the Gambian coast and reserved for local artisanal fishermen.

Nine trawlers, believing the Sam Simon had departed, were subsequently documented fishing inside the Special Management Area, with one of those trawlers detected with its net in the water just 4.5 nautical miles off the coast, deep into protected waters.  With evidence in hand, the Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources instructed for the trawlers to be arrested in a series of nighttime raids executed by armed Gambian Navy sailors along the Gambian coast. A tenth trawler, operating near the other nine, was also arrested for not having proof of registration on board.

The fishing vessels Hazem, Superfly 4, Hansen 01, Hansen 03, Hansen 05, Hansen 07, Qunlong 3, Qunlong 5, De Hong 2 and Dehong 3 were subsequently arrested and are now detained in the Port of Banjul.

“My crew and I are dedicated to assisting Gambian authorities by extending the long arm of law to cover the entirety of a protected area reserved for artisanal fishers. Through arrests and deterrence, patrols will ensure that both the environment and the rights of local people are protected."

Alistair Allan, captain of the Sam Simon

The waters of The Gambia are particularly rich in biodiversity as the country is positioned where the nutrient-rich Gambia River meets the Canary Current. The livelihoods of over 200,000 Gambians are directly or indirectly dependent on local fisheries while the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) believes that more than 46% of the assessed fish populations in the Eastern Central Atlantic are experiencing overfishing.

Sardinella and other small pelagic species are of critical importance to Gambians which is why the Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources instituted a nine-nautical mile Special Management Area to conserve waters frequented by artisanal fishermen. However, industrial trawlers routinely come close to the shoreline with artisanal fishermen making daily complaints to the Ministry asking for compensation for nets lost to industrial trawlers running them over. Populations of sardinella are also rapidly declining due to these daily incursions.

“Operation Gambian Coastal Defense has netted fourteen trawlers, the great majority of which have fished in a special area reserved for fishing by local communities who depend on the Gambian coast for their livelihoods. While the presence of the Sam Simon deters incursion by trawlers into protected waters, these latest arrests send the message that Sea Shepherd is committed to a long term partnership with The Gambia meaning that the Sam Simon can – and will - return at any time."

Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd Global’s Director of Campaigns.

Sea Shepherd’s partnership with The Gambia, named Operation Gambian Coastal Defense, marks the seventh African costal State to join a growing effort to stop illegal fishing around the African continent through joint at-sea patrols.

Since 2016, Sea Shepherd has been working in partnership with the governments of Gabon, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tanzania, Benin and Namibia to combat IUU fishing by providing the use of civilian offshore patrol vessels to African coastal states so that authorities can enforce fisheries regulations and conservation laws in their sovereign waters. To date, the unique partnerships have resulted in the arrest of 45 vessels for illegal fishing and other fisheries crimes.

Read more about Sea Shepherd’s campaigns to stop illegal fishing:

Watch the arrest video (below)

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