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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Maritime Logistics Professional

July 28, 2019

Sea Shepherd, Namibia Fight Fisheries Crime

Namibian officials and Sea Shepherd crew onboard the Ocean Warrior. Photo by Kerstine Launay/Sea Shepherd.

Namibian officials and Sea Shepherd crew onboard the Ocean Warrior. Photo by Kerstine Launay/Sea Shepherd.

The Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) compliance officials and Sea Shepherd, onboard the Ocean Warrior, have jointly carried out successful surveillance activities in Namibia`s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), effectively causing illegal factory trawlers to abandon the Skeleton Coast.

The main objective of these joint patrols was to tackle Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Namibian waters. These initiatives assisted the MFMR and other Namibian law enforcement agencies to force illegal and foreign industrial factory trawlers out of the Namibian EEZ suspected to have targeted horse mackerel stocks through IUU activities.

Large foreign industrial factory trawlers – former Soviet Union made trawlers -  have been ‘border hopping`, sneaking into Namibia`s EEZ at night, plundering fish, predominantly horse mackerel, off Namibia’s famed Skeleton Coast. These illegal incursions have been exacerbated by heavy fog and shipwrecks in the area thereby making detection difficult.

The illegal catches were then trans-shipped to large refrigerated cargo vessels, also known as reefers, waiting to load the illegally caught fish just outside of Namibian EEZ.

Refrigerated cargo vessels are a major contributor to IUU fishing as legal catch can be mixed with illegal catch, thereby making it impossible to verify the origin of catches. That is why the Namibian Marine Resources Act bans transshipment out at sea and only allows it to happen in port or in the presence of law enforcement officers.

As a result of these intrusions, the M/Y Ocean Warrior, under the command of Sea Shepherd Volunteer Admiral Giuseppe de Giorgi (Ret.), former Chief of Staff of the Italian Navy (2013-2016) started patrolling the northern waters of Namibia on April 26th under the direction of the Namibian Law Enforcement Officers (comprised of fisheries inspectors and police officers) to stop incursions by large foreign industrial factory trawlers that have been crossing the northern maritime border into Namibia to poach horse mackerel.

The joint operation was named Operation Vanguard. On April 26th this Operation intercepted an illegal fishing vessel moving at trawling speed, 20 nautical miles south of the border between Angola and Namibia.

On sighting the M/Y Ocean Warrior the illegal fishing vessel immediately changed course to escape apprehension. The M/Y Ocean Warrior came within 300 meters of the illegal fishing vessel, operating in close quarter situations in efforts to slow the larger vessel down.

The unidentified fishing vessel had no discernible vessel markings, and unfortunately the illegal fishing vessel could not be boarded due to unfavorable weather conditions at the time.

However, the confrontation and visibility of a patrolling presence off the Skeleton Coast by this joint operation caused a deterrence to fish poachers as no further incursions have occurred since the intercept, ensuring that the joint patrols have the intended deterrent effect that will allow horse mackerel stocks in the north of Namibia to recover from the fishing pressure of criminal operators.

Namibia has one of the richest fishing grounds in the world, especially after the Namibian government significantly reduced the number of legally-licensed horse mackerel fishing vessels operating in Namibian waters. But illegal fishing has recently increased as formerly licensed fishing vessels have set up operations in other countries with the intent of poaching in the northern waters of Namibia.

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