Guinea Bissau partners with Greenpeace to fight illegal transshipment in West Africa

In the latest effort in its global campaign to curtail illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, Greenpeace has teamed up with the African nation of Guinea Bissau to arrest several vessels accused of illegal transshipment of seafood.

A joint patrol on 22 March involving the Fisheries Surveillance Department of Guinea Bissau (FISCAP) and the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza resulted in the arrest of the Saly Reefer, as well as the fishing vessels Flipper 3, Flipper 4 and Flipper 5, all flying Comoros flags. The vessels were found to be engaged in transshipment at sea, which was banned by the government of Guinea Bissau in 2015. The vessels were brought to port and are being investigated by local authorities for illegal transshipment at sea, failure to display readable names on the vessels, nonpayment of fines, and the use of illegal fishing equipment, according to Greenpeace. The ships are owned by Las Palmas-based Sea Group SL, which now faces legal action and a fine.

The joint patrol between Greenpeace and FISCAP was organized as a result of a special request from Guinea Bissau President José Mário Vaz. A previous patrol on 21 March by FISCAP and Greenpeace found three Chinese-flagged fishing vessels – Yi Feng 8, Yi Feng 9, and Yi Feng 10 – engaged in suspected illegal fishing. All three vessels are owned by the same Chinese company, Dalian Zhangzidao Yi Feng Aquatic Product Company Ltd. The Yi Feng 8 was apprehended and detained by FISCAP, while the other boats fled and escaped capture. And on 24 March, a separate joint patrol found the Chang Yuan Yu 05, which had not paid a fine for the use of an illegal net in September 2016, was boarded, arrested, and taken back to the port of Bissau, where FISCAP said it will be detained.

“The fact that we managed to come across such a high number of vessels breaking the law in only a few days really confirms the alarming ‘Wild-West’ situation in the waters of West Africa,” Greenpeace Project Leader Pavel Klinckhamers said. “Fishing companies and crews have gotten used to exploiting Guinea Bissau’s insufficiently managed waters, and our findings show that illegal operations are most likely taking place on a daily basis.” 

Greenpeace is campaigning for the creation of a regional management body in West Africa to improve governance and enforcement of existing laws, including rules governing IUU fishing, which is estimated to have cost the region 300,000 jobs in artisanal fishing and approximately USD 2.3 billion (EUR 2.1 billion) annually in revenues. According to Greenpeace, the trend of foreign fleets taking advantage of lax regulation and weak penalties is being exacerbated by an increasing number of domestic, industrial fishing vessels taking to the region’s waters.

“West Africa is the only region in the world where fish consumption is declining due to over-exploitation of resources by too many vessels and illegal fishing operations,” Ocean Campaign Manager in Greenpeace Africa Ibrahima Cisse said. “The repercussions of fish-stock depletion on food security and the economy in some of the most vulnerable countries in the world is extremely concerning and must be tackled. In West Africa, where people rely heavily on fish as one of their main sources of protein, it is a vital source of income and employment for nearly seven million people. That is why we strongly encourage West African governments to set up a regional fisheries management body.”  

The patrols by the Esperanza are part of a larger Greenpeace campaign against transshipment. The environmental nonprofit has taken various actions against Thai Union, one of the largest seafood companies in the world, in order to pressure it to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as human rights abuses, in its own supply chains. The group scored a major victory earlier in March, when food company Nestlé committed to a full ban on transshipment at sea in its supply chains, and Mars committed to suspend the use of transshipped products in its supply chains if its seafood suppliers do not adequately address the human rights and illegal fishing issues. Thai Union is a major seafood supplier to both companies.


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