“Half of the Catch was Plastic Bags”, Liberia Arrests Trawler in Area Reserved for Local Fishermen
Tuesday, 19 Apr, 2022
In the early morning hours of the 10th of April, Sea Shepherd assisted the Liberian Coast Guard with the arrest of a trawler fishing inside a prohibited area reserved for artisanal fishermen. When the Liberian Coast Guard boarded the vessel and ordered the captain to retrieve his fishing gear, they soon discovered that half of the catch was plastic bags. Photos by Alice Grégoire/Sea Shepherd Global.
The fishing vessel—later identified as Global 8– was detected on radar by a Liberian Coast Guard law enforcement detachment stationed on board the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker as the trawler fished five nautical miles off the coast of Liberia.
With its nets in the waters, the trawler was operating inside a six-nautical-mile inshore exclusion zone established by the Liberian government to safeguard the environment and to protect the livelihoods of Liberia’s artisanal and small-scale fishermen. Around 33,000 Liberians depend on these local fisheries for their livelihoods.
Sea Shepherd crew quickly mobilized their rigid hulled inflatable boats to intercept the trawler. On approaching the target, Sea Shepherd media team documented that the vessel was nameless, with no name painted on either the bow of the stern, a serious violation of Liberian law.
“Three-and-a-half years ago, Sea Shepherd assisted the Liberian Coast Guard to arrest a trawler that had draped nets over its name in order to conceal its identify from artisanal fishermen who could have otherwise reported its position inside prohibited waters to the Coast Guard. The fact that this latest arrest was of a vessel that conspired to not even paint a name on its hull, follows in a tradition of operators attempting to elude authorities.”Liberia’s Minister of National Defense, the Honorable Maj Gen (Ret.) Daniel Ziankahn.
Once on board the trawler, Liberian Coast Guard sailors identified the vessel as Global 8, based on paperwork found in the wheelhouse. Global 8 lacked any vessel registration documents.
As the trawl net was winched aboard, Sea Shepherd crew documented that half of the catch was plastic bags.
Access to clean drinking water is an issue along the entire coast of West Africa so many people buy potable water in small plastic bags from street sellers. These bags often find a way out to sea where they end up in the bellies of sea creatures who now share their habitat with marine debris.
“The amount of plastic in the net shows both how close the trawler was fishing to shore, and how bad both the overfishing—and the plastic pollution–problem has gotten off the coast of West Africa”, said Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd Global’s Director of Campaigns.
The Liberian Coast Guard inspection team also discovered that Global 8 did not have enough lifejackets for the entire crew, an issue particularly alarming given the case of the sunken ferry, Niko Ivanka.
Last year, the Sea Shepherd ship Age of Union worked together with the Liberian Coast Guard to rescue the lives of twelve people when a ferry sank after taking on water off the Liberian Coast. Many passengers died, including children, because Niko Ivanka did not carry flotation devices for everyone on board.
Global 8 was arrested and escorted by the Liberian Coast Guard and Bob Barker to the Port of Monrovia.
About Operation Sola Stella
Since 2017, Sea Shepherd has partnered with the Liberian Coast Guard to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing through joint at-sea patrols under the direction of Liberia’s Minister of National Defense, the Honorable Maj Gen (Ret.) Daniel Ziankahn. To date, 16 vessels have been arrested for illegal fishing and other fisheries crimes.
On February 11, 2019, Sea Shepherd was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) by Liberian President Dr. George Manneh Weah in recognition of the success of Operation Sola Stella. The DSO is the highest military award given by the Ministry of National Defense and the Armed Forces of Liberia, recognizing exceptional service to the Republic of Liberia.
Operation Sola Stella campaign page: https://www.seashepherdglobal.org/our-campaigns/operation-sola-stella/
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