Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


EU-approved vessels 'fishing in S Leone'

11 October 2012, 15:20

Freetown - Nine of the 10 vessels believed to be responsible for the bulk of more than 250 reports of illegal fishing off the coast of Sierra Leone are cleared to export their catches to the European market, an environment watchdog group has found.

Illegal fishing is rampant in West Africa's Gulf of Guinea where impoverished coastal nations with little capacity to police their waters lose up to $1.5bn in annual income to ships operating in protected zones or without proper licences.

The European Union has set up regulations to prevent vessels involved in so-called illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing from accessing European markets.

An 18-month investigation conducted by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), however, documented a long list of abuses including fishing inside exclusion zones, using banned equipment, and transhipping fish illegally at sea.

The majority of cases involved ships accredited to sell their seafood at EU ports.

"As the world's largest importer of fish, the EU has a crucial responsibility to combat IUU fishing around the world," the report by the British-registered charity said.

"The lack of communication and co-ordination between the EU and coastal states in West Africa means that there is a vacuum of information on what is happening in the area with the highest levels of IUU fishing in the world."

Flags of convenience

EJF, which carried out surveillance in conjunction with 23 local communities in southern Sierra Leone, said ships refused to pay fines, covered identification markings, bribed officials and fled to neighbouring counties to avoid sanctions.

It said many also sailed under so-called flags of convenience. The report says events last year exposed a problematic system under which ships' flag states, many of whom have no effective oversight of vessels, were given the primary responsibility for verifying whether catches were legitimate.

"Following the submission of evidence gathered at sea by EJF, 1100 tons of fish were seized in March 2011 in Las Palmas and held for four months whilst an unprecedented international investigation was carried out," the report said.

"Crucially, the seafood in question was eventually released when the flag states involved declared the catches were legal."

Oliver Drewes, spokesman for European Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Maria Damanaki, said the EU was "very, very concerned" about the possibility that illegally fished seafood could be making its way onto the plates of European consumers.

"We acknowledge and accept that the EU is a potential marketplace for these products," he told Reuters, adding that, if the abuses were confirmed, the offending vessels would be banned from exporting to the EU and barred from European ports.

"In practice, this is a blacklist. Once you're on that list as a vessel, you have to cease your activities," he said.

Sierra Leone's fisheries minister, Soccoh Kabia, said on Wednesday he had not yet read the EJF report but called illegal fishing an unacceptable practice regardless of the eventual destination of the catch.

"If it goes to the EU it is particularly painful," he told Reuters. "I know the EU nations as nations that comply with the law."

- Reuters


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
ODM MP chased down by angry Kibra...

Kibra MP Ken Okoth had a hard time in his constituency after angry youth pelted him with stones. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Prepare for DP Ruto fight in 2022...

An MP has warned that the Kalenjin Community will not stand back and watch as DP Ruto is duped ahead of the 2022 polls. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Be careful who you deal with, DP ...

Watch out for your political future, DP William Ruto has been warned. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Kikuyu 2022 vote will go to Peter...

The 2022 Kikuyu vote will go to Peter Kenneth, a Rift Valley Governor has warned DP William Ruto. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
CORD threatens to boycott 2017 po...

The CORD Coalition says that it will be forced to boycott the 2017 elections if there is no new voter register in place by the time. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Disgraced Jeptoo stripped of 2014...

Organizers of the Boston Marathon are stripping Kenyan runner Rita Jeptoo of her 2014 victory as part of the athlete's newly extended doping ban. Read more...