Liberia arrests high-tech poachers for illegal fishing and attempted bribery

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 18, 2018

On the 15thof January 2018, the Ghanaian-flagged Fishing Vessel (F/V) Panofi Fore Runner was arrested in waters belonging to the West African state of Liberia by the Liberian Coast Guard assisted by Sea Shepherd crew. The 71-meter long purse seine vessel was apprehended with nine fish aggregation devices (FADs) fishing in Liberian waters and without a Liberian Fishing License.

FADs are essentially ‘fish magnets’ that attract fish and the ones deployed by the F/V Panofi Fore Runner are high-tech devices that alert the vessel to fish activity. The vessel can then set its two-kilometer net on the FAD, scooping up the fish underneath.

Fishing without a Liberian fishing license is the most serious offense under the Liberian Fisheries Regulations, for which the penalty can be a fine up to one million United States dollars (USD $1,000,000). Each deployed FAD constitutes a separate offense for a possible total fine of USD $9,000,000.

In an ill-fated bid to evade justice, the Master and Chief Officer offered bribes of USD $1,450.45 and USD $6,911.80 to Liberian Coast Guard boarding officers, incidents that will lead to additional charges being brought against the vessel.

The F/V Panofi Fore Runner is now detained in the port of Monrovia awaiting legal action.

“The attempt by the Master and the Chief Officer to bribe Liberian Coast Guard sailors is criminal behavior and clear evidence that they had something to hide. It is common to see other criminal activity such as forgery, tax evasion and bribery associated with fishing offenses, which is why the Ministry of National Defense is resolute in combatting illegal fishing as transnational organized crime”, said Hon Brownie Samukai, Liberian Minister of National Defense.   

The F/V Panofi Fore Runner is part of a fishing fleet owned by Panofi Company Ltd, a company based out of Ghana with beneficial ownership in South Korea, that was been convicted of past fishing offenses in Liberia. A sister ship to the F/V Panofi Fore Runner, the F/V Panofi Discoverer, was arrested for illegal fishing in Liberia in 2013 along with two Panofi refrigerated cargo vessels, M/V Volta Victory and M/V Volta Glory, that were caught illegally transshipping fish in Liberian waters. On board the F/V Panofi Fore Runner was 700 metric tons of tuna. Records found on board the F/V Panofi Fore Runner during inspection, show that the vessel regularly transships with the two reefers previously convicted of fisheries offenses in Liberia.

“It has been five years since vessels owned by Panofi Company Ltd were arrested and convicted of illegally fishing in Liberian waters. The quick apprehension of a Panofi vessel that decided to try their luck in once again circumventing Liberian law, showcases the incredible capability of the Liberian Coast Guard to conserve and protect Liberian waters and illustrates the importance of government and civil society working together to stop illegal fishing”, said Director of Campaigns Peter Hammarstedt

Since February 2017, under the name Operation Sola Stella, Sea Shepherd been assisting the Government of Liberia to tackle IUU fishing by providing the use of a civilian offshore patrol vessel operating in Liberian waters, under the direction of the Liberian Ministry of National Defense. Operation Sola Stella has resulted in the arrest of nine vessels for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.  Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing, which accounts for up to 40% of the fish caught in West African waters.

In 2016 Sea Shepherd partnered with the government of Gabon for Operation Albacore, resulting in over 40 fishing vessel inspections at sea and the subsequent arrest of three IUU Congolese fishing trawlers and one Spanish long-liner. Operation Sola Stella is a continuation of Sea Shepherd Global’s commitment to work actively with national governments and their Law Enforcement Agencies in the fight against IUU fishing.

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Hi-Res Images: https://minerva.seashepherdglobal.org/share.cgi?ssid=0xQ5gT4

Photo Captions:

Vessel Exterior-010-DJI_0044: M/Y Sam Simon assists with the arrest of the F/V Panofi Fore Runner. Photo Thomas Le Coz/Sea Shepherd.

Vessel Onboard 2nd Day-011-FUJI3376: Liberian Coast Guard secures the bridge of the F/V Panofi Fore Runner. Photo Melissa Romao/Sea Shepherd.

Vessel Onboard 2nd Day-003-FUJI3358: FAD deployed by the F/V Panofi Fore Runner in Liberian waters. Photo Melissa Romao/Sea Shepherd.

Heading Out At Sunset-003-FUJI3083: Liberian Coast Guard departs M/Y Sam Simon to board the F/V Panofi Fore Runner. Photo Melissa Romao/Sea Shepherd.

On Board Vessel 1st Night-004-FUJI3118: Attempted bribery of the Liberian Coast Guard. Photo Melissa Romao/Sea Shepherd.

On Board Vessel 1st Night-018-FUJI3193: Liberian Coast Guard secures the deck of the F/V Panofi Fore Runner. Photo Melissa Romao/Sea Shepherd.

Vessel Exterior At Sunset-001-FUJI3090: M/Y Sam Simon small boat crew assist the Liberian Coast Guard to board the F/V Panofi Fore Runner. Photo Melissa Romao/Sea Shepherd.

Vessel Exterior-001-FUJI3322: The F/V Panofi Fore Runner. Photo Melissa Romao/Sea Shepherd.

Vessel Onboard 2nd Day-029-FUJI3434: Liberian Coast Guard secures the bridge of the F/V Panofi Fore Runner. Photo Melissa Romao/Sea Shepherd.

Vessel Onboard 2nd Day-014-FUJI3381: FADs on board the F/V Panofi Fore Runner. Photo Melissa Romao/Sea Shepherd.

More about Operation Sola Stella: http://bit.ly/SolaStella 

For further information, additional images and interview requests, contact:
Heather Stimmler, Sea Shepherd Global Media Director
E-mail: media@seashepherdglobal.org Tel: +339 7719 7742

Sea Shepherd Global

Sea Shepherd is an international non-profit marine conservation movement using innovative tactics and direct action to defend, conserve and protect the worlds oceans and marine wildlife. Founded by Paul Watson in 1977, today Sea Shepherd is a worldwide movement with independent national and regional entities in over 20 countries. With the exception of the US-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), they are united by a common mission through Sea Shepherd Global, based in Amsterdam, which coordinates communications, logistics and a fleet of five ships to cooperate on campaigns around the world. Sea Shepherd investigates and documents violations of international and national conservation law, and enforces conservation measures where legal authority exists. For more information, visit: http://www.seashepherdglobal.org/

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About Us

SEA SHEPHERD GLOBAL Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations. A selection of press images are available on our Media Site (high-res images and a videos without watermarks available to qualified press on request): http://media.seashepherdglobal.org/