On March 13, the Liberian Coast Guard under the Ministry of National Defense with assistance from the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd arrested a notorious Antarctic and Patagonian tooth-fish poaching vessel, famous for plundering the Antarctic in Liberia’s territorial waters, according to a release from Sea Shepherd made on Tuesday.
The F/V Hai Lung, known to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) by its previous name ‘Kily,’ was reportedly transiting through Liberian waters when it was boarded and inspected by a Liberian Coast Guard team working alongside Sea Shepherd crew on board Sea Shepherd’s patrol vessel M/Y Sam Simon.
The F/V Hai Lung, which was operating under a number of different names, including ‘Yele,’ ‘Ray,’ ‘Kily,’ ‘Constant,’ ‘Tropic’ and ‘Isla Graciosa,’ is an infamous fishing vessel that has been blacked-listed by several regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), including CCAMLR, SEAFO and NEAFC.
As a result, the vessel has been denied port access in Togo and Angola. Unofficial sources state that it was detained in Nigeria for entering that country’s waters without authorization last year.
Once on board the F/V Hai Lung, the Liberian Coast Guard Boarding Officer was presented with forged documentation, alleging that the F/V Hai Lung was flagged (marked) to the Republic of Indonesia as a fishing vessel.
The Certificate of Nationality was allegedly issued on August 8, 2017, in Jakarta, Indonesia, by a senior Ministry of Transportation official, who had long since been transferred to another government position.
However the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries has no record of the vessel in their databases. The forged Certificate of Nationality makes the F/V Hai Lung a vessel ‘without nationality,’ subject to seizure anywhere, including on the High Seas.
“On those grounds, including a long list of other violations, all of the suspects absconded from justice in Nigeria through an alleged bribing Maritime Security Police. The Liberian Coast Guard has decided to arrest the F/V Hai Lung, detaining it at its base near the Port of Monrovia pending further investigation,” confirmed Daniel Ziankahn, the Minister of National Defense.
The owner of the F/V Hai Lung is believed to be a Spaniard, Argibay Perez, a notorious tooth-fish poacher belonging to the “Galician Mafia.” Perez has reportedly been convicted of crimes in both La Réunion (France) and Australia.
In 1999, the Supreme Court of Western Australia on fining Mr. Argibay Perez, concluded that “the applicant committed six offenses that are of a serious nature and where the level of criminality was high.”
Mr. Perez is also linked to the F/V Viking, a vessel that was issued an Interpol Purple Notice in 2013 before being arrested and sunk by the Indonesian Navy in 2016.
“On board the F/V Hai Lung, the Liberian Coast Guard team uncovered a contact registry that included over a dozen infamous tooth-fish poachers, including two of the rouge tooth-fish poachers known as the ‘Bandit Six’:F/V Viking and the F/V Thunder, both subjects of Interpol Purple Notices before they were destroyed. The latter was a vessel that my crew and I chased for 110 days before it sank in the Gulf of Guinea in April of 2015,” said Sea Shepherd Global Director of Campaigns Peter Hammarstedt.
“Since Indonesia has been a world leader in cracking down on illegal fishing, it is in equal parts audacious and insulting that the F/V Hai Lung attempted to forge Indonesian documents,” Hammarstedt said.
About Operation Sola Stella
Since February 2017, under the name Operation Sola Stella, Sea Shepherd has been assisting the Government of Liberia to tackle IUU fishing by providing the use of a civilian offshore patrol vessel and crew operating in Liberian waters under the direction of the Liberian Ministry of National Defense.
Operation Sola Stella has resulted in the arrest of eleven vessels for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing, which accounts for up to 40 percent of the fish caught in West African waters.
Executive Order No. 84
It can be recalled that former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in March 2017, issued Executive Order No. 84 pertaining to the Management of Liberia Fishery Resources, indicating that, “Whereas Article 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia prescribes that the Republic shall manage the natural resources of Liberia to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia.”
Executive Order No. 84 adds, “The fishery resources of Liberia have been underutilized for over a decade and the Government of Liberia (Government) intends to encourage investment in this sector, to ensure the sustainable development and utilization of this natural resource.”
The Executive Order further notes: “Whereas, the Government in furtherance of its intentions to begin to sustainably utilize its fishery resources has recognized that the Bureau of National Fisheries, a unit under the Ministry of Agriculture, needs to be granted an autonomous status to enable it meet up with the demands and trends of the fishing industry, and reduce the Government’s bureaucracy around the process of obtaining fishing license.”
The objective of this executive Order is to fully implement that all authorities, including supervisory and fiscal responsibilities over the Fisheries Sector, as well as that of the Bureau of National Fisheries, shall now come under the full and complete control of the Liberia Maritime Authority; that the Inshore Exclusive Zone (IEZ) as established by the Fisheries Regulations of 2010 is hereby reduced from 6 nautical miles to 3 nautical miles.
This, accordingly, is to ensure that industrial and semi-industrial fishing can restart and again become viable. That fishing vessels below 500 gross tons shall be exempt from all APM Terminal and other Port charges; that the cumulative stock of fishery resources to be harvested shall not exceed 100,000 metric tons per annum, etc.
What the Ministry of Defense did not make clear up to press time last night, is whether the Liberian Coast Guard arrested the alleged poacher within the 3 to 6 mile radius of the prohibited areas.
Assistant Defense Minister for Public Affairs, Sam Collins did not respond to calls the Daily Observer placed to his phone, nor did he respond to a text informing him about the nature of the calls.
Meanwhile, local fishermen have welcomed and expressed support for the Coast Guard action to arrest the vessel.
Kwame Attoh, a West Point based fisherman, said news of the arrest of the fishing vessel by the Coast Guard is good because for time immemorial local fishermen have been suffering at the hands of foreign fishing vessels many of which he claims regularly fish illegally in Liberian waters .
He said the foreign vessels have nets that go several fathoms deep to the ocean floor and they scoop just about every sea creature into their nets. According to him, these vessels often destroy their nets and in some cases, their frail wooden crafts are rammed by these vessels.
This usually results in the loss of their nets, canoes and even precious lives, he added. Although it is not clear whether the operators of the poaching vessel will be charged and sent to court for illegally fishing in Liberian territorial waters, Kwame Attoh said, the government needs to take strong action against these foreign vessels to discourage others who may have intentions to illegally fish in Liberian waters.
Source: Sea Shepherd Global