Notorious Toothfish Poacher Anchored in Yemen Port

Tuesday, 06 Oct, 2020

On the 5th of October, Sea Shepherd identified that the notorious toothfish poacher Cobija was listed as anchored in the Port of Mukalla in the Republic of Yemen through the Yemen Arabian Sea Port Corporation website. 

Cobija, formerly named Cape Flower, is an internationally-blacklisted fishing vessel that was added to the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization (SEAFO) IUU blacklist in 2017. Since then, it is suspected to have conducted illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing for toothfish in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) convention area. 

The vessel—which will likely claim that it is flagged to the Plurinational State of Bolivia–is believed to be stateless and any registration documents would therefore be forgeries. If there is cargo on board then it is possibly toothfish caught illegally in the CCAMLR convention area. 

It is presumed that the beneficial owner of Cobija is based in the Galicia region of Spain based on the usual practice of other toothfish poachers. 

“Crimes ranging from illegal fishing to forgery are part of the modus operandi of these toothfish poachers. Sea Shepherd calls on the Republic of Yemen to detain, investigate and prosecute Cobjia to the full extent of the law, ensuring that Yemeni authorities send a strong message that Port of Mukalla is not open to organized crime”, said Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns for Sea Shepherd. 

About Operation Icefish 

In 2014/15, Sea Shepherd vessels Bob Barker and Sam Simon pursued the infamous Thunder–a toothfish poacher–that was subject to an Interpol Purple Notice and had made an illicit profit of $60 million USD during its ten-year illegal fishing career.  

After chasing Thunder for 110 days, the fishing vessel’s captain deliberately sank Thunder in an ill-fated bid to destroy the evidence on board. The captain and crew were rescued by Sea Shepherd; the former was later sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and fined 15 million euros by courts in São Tomé and Príncipe.  

One month later, judicial police in the Republic of Cabo Verde raided two toothfish poaching vessel, Songhua and Yongding, after receiving a tip-off from Sea Shepherd that they were anchored in the Cabo Verdean port of Mindelo. The two vessels have been detained since. 

In 2018, Sea Shepherd and Fish-i Africa assisted Tanzanian authorities to pursue STS-50, a stateless toothfish poacher that was ultimately arrested and forfeited to the state in the Republic of Indonesia.

Captain Hammarstedt with the Interpol notice for the Thunder during Operation Icefish.
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