A settlement agreement has been signed by the Minister of Agriculture on behalf of the government of Liberia with Dongwon Industries Co. Ltd. in respect to violations of the 2010 Liberia Fisheries Regulations by fishing vesselsPremier¬†and¬†Solevant.¬† The Bureau of National Fisheries (BNF) in Liberia has announced that the company has paid a total fine of two million USD – one million USD for each purse seine vessel.¬† The fine is paid to release the¬†F/V Premier¬†and the¬†F/V Solevant¬†of the charges of illegal fishing that included: unlicensed fishing activities, undeclared catches and the use of forged Liberian license.¬† The civil law charges of this case are now closedi.
The case of the¬†F/V Premier¬†began in 2011 when¬†Stop Illegal Fishing¬†in cooperation with the BNF and Trygg Mat Analytical Unit found indications that¬†F/V Premier¬†was¬†fishing illegally in Liberian waters.¬† This was later confirmed in December 2012 through log book information identified during an¬†inspection by Mauritian authorities in Port Louis.¬† Following this, the¬†F/V Premier¬†has requested and been refused – due to the unsettled IUU case in Liberia – port access for offloading of fish in the¬†Seychelles¬†and¬†Mauritius¬†and fishing licenses in other Indian Ocean countries.
The¬†F/V Solevant¬†now registered in the C√¥te d‚ÄôIvoire and operated by Dongwon Industries, was previously named¬†Santa Maria¬†and registered in France.¬† The vessel was tracked fishing illegally in the Liberian EEZ in February, June, July and September 2012 under its current name, and these offenses are the ones associated to the settlement.¬† Previously under the name¬†Santa Maria¬†the vessel was found carrying a forged Liberian fishing license.
The BNF in its press statement states that¬†‚ÄúThe Government of Liberia would like to warmly extend its thanks and appreciation to all those Governments and parties who have cooperated and provided assistance in these illegal fishing cases. In particular the Governments of Mauritius, Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania, Comoros and Mozambique provided invaluable assistance in exercising their port and coastal State duties by denying the¬†F/V PREMIER¬†port services and fishing licenses during the investigation period. Further thanks are also extended to the FISH-i program, which provided crucial intelligence and information exchange throughout the investigation period. The flag States of the vessels, South Korea (PREMIER) and Ivory Coast (SOLEVANT) are also thanked for their assistance‚Äù.
The action against these vessels – and particularly against¬†F/V Premier¬†‚Äì demonstrates a pan-African solidarity that¬†Stop Illegal Fishing¬†has been working to grow over the last six years.¬† The success has relied heavily on cooperation, intelligence and information sharing between governments and other parties. Of particular importance to this case are the new and transparent¬†BNF website¬†and the¬†FISH-i Africa initiative.¬† The BNF website provides a portal for displaying details of all industrial vessels licensed to fish in Liberia as well as making public decisions in relation to ongoing IUU cases.¬† The FISH-i Africa network, only four months old, has proved its usefulness through feeding information about the forged documents back to Liberia and through the solidarity of the five Indian Ocean member countries in cooperating to deny access for port facilities and granting of fishing licenses.
Based on the overwhelming success of the FISH-i Africa pilot in the Indian Ocean¬†Stop Illegal Fishing¬†now plans to expand the network in the Indian Ocean and aims to establish a West Africa FISH-i Africa node in the near future.
One remaining question is the IUU status of¬†FV Premier¬†following this settlement with Liberia. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) Resolution 07/02 (concerning the establishment of an IOTC record of vessels authorised to operate in the IOTC area) states in paragraph 5 that ‚Äòthe flag Contracting¬† Party,¬† and¬† Cooperating¬† non-Contracting¬† Party¬† (CPCs) of the vessels on the record shall ensure that their authorized fishing vessels (AFVs) on the IOTC Record have no history of IUU fishing activities or that, if those vessels have such history, the new owners have provided sufficient evidence demonstrating that the previous owners and operators have no legal, beneficial or financial interest in, or control over those vessels, or that having taken into account all relevant facts, their AFVs are not engaged in or associated with IUU fishing.‚Äô
This suggests that based on the text of the settlement agreement where Dongwon has admitted that the vessel was engaged in IUU fishing, the flag State member (South Korea) should remove¬†FV Premier¬†from the authorized fishing vessel (AFV) list of the IOTC and thus not be entitled to fish within the IOTC Convention area.¬† This may be a very relevant rule for South Korea to comply with after the Greens/European Free Alliance (a political group of the EU Parliament) recently proposed that South Korea be added to the EU fishing black-listii¬†for non-cooperating countries against IUU fishing and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce‚Äôs report to U.S. Congress lists 10 countries that have engaged in IUU fishing activities and this includes South Koreaiii.
FISH-i Africa, launched in the Seychelles in December 2012, is an initiative coordinated by the¬†Stop Illegal Fishing¬†working group of the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency with the support of the Pew Charitable Trusts.¬† FISH-i Africa is a partnership between the five coastal States of Comoros, Kenya, Mozambique, Seychelles and the United Republic of Tanzania.¬† It connects partners on a real-time basis to share information and intelligence to enable them to make decisions and take action against suspected illegal operators.¬†Stop Illegal Fishing¬†and the Pew Charitable Trusts directly support the group with assistance from the IOTC and the Indian Ocean Commission‚Äôs SmartFish Project.