Four cases of illegal fishing have been found during a joint surveillance mission conducted by Greenpeace and Sierra Leone fishery authorities. Two Chinese vessels and one Korean vessel have been arrested for infringements of Sierra Leone fishing legislation, including possessing or using illegal fishing nets on board, no visible marking and a lack of required paperwork, including log books and authorisation for unloading catch.
Fishing authorities ordered the vessels to return to Freetown port for further investigation. A fourth vessel, owned by an Italian company, was found with four kilograms of shark fins on board. Though not illegal under Sierra Leonean laws, this is a clear violation of European Union fishing rules. This boat’s case will be taken further with relevant EU authorities.
Widespread illegal fishing
Greenpeace and Sierra Leonean authorities boarded seven vessels during a four day joint surveillance of Sierra Leonean seas. These included three Chinese vessels, two EU vessels, one Korean vessel, and one Senegalese vessel with Korean investment. More than half of the inspected vessels are suspected of illegal fishing activity.
Ahmed Diame, Greenpeace Africa Oceans campaigner, said:
“The findings from just four days of surveillance in Sierra Leone are further evidence that West Africa needs to strengthen its fisheries management. The region’s marine resources are being depleted at alarming rates, mainly due to too many boats competing for too few fish, and high rates of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This ongoing plunder is a threat to millions of people in the region who depend on the oceans for their food.”
Currently 140 vessels are licenced to operate in Sierra Leonean waters, including tuna purse seiners, demersal and shrimp trawlers and shrimps and mid-water trawlers targeting pelagic fish like sardinella and mackerel. Nearly half of all vessels in the country’s waters are owned by Chinese companies, and 40% by European Union companies.
Pan Wenjing, Greenpeace East Asia oceans campaigner, said:
“From talking to Chinese captains during the inspections, it is evident that they have a very limited understanding of local fisheries legislation. Given that almost half of the foreign fishing vessels in Sierra Leone are Chinese, this is a major concern. These vessels need much stricter supervision. In addition, Chinese fishing companies need to supply training on local legislation to all overseas staff.”
Nearly one million of Sierra Leone’s population of seven million depend on fish as a main part of their income and diet. Overfishing and illegal fishing are a direct threat to their food security and livelihoods.
More information on the “Hope in West Africa” campaign can be found here.