Global nonprofit marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd, in partnership Benin Navy sailors, have arrested an industrial fishing trawler in the port of Cotonou and accused it of fishing illegally.
The arrest of vessel the Fada 18 was preceded by several nights of documentation by the Sea Shepherd crew – aboard the organization’s vessel Bob Barker – of the vessel fishing illegally inside a special management area reserved for local artisanal fishermen extending up to 9.3 kilometers from the coast of Benin.
“Fada 18 was caught fishing just outside the Bouche du Roy Ecological Reserve, which consists of mangroves and lagoons critical to fish nurseries,” Sea Shepherd said in a release announcing the arrests. This is the same spot where three illegally fishing Tian Yu vessels were arrested nearly a year ago.”
The reserve is part of the UNESCO-listed Mono Biosphere Reserve, “home to nearly two million people in Benin and Togo, and particularly rich in biodiversity, as it’s positioned in a wildlife corridor frequented by migrating tuna and humpback whales,” according to Sea Shepherd.
“The successful arrest of Fada 18 marks the continuation of joint at-sea patrols between the Benin Navy and Sea Shepherd under the leadership of Maxime Ahoyo, the Maritime Commissioner of Benin,” Sea Shepherd wrote.
The organization said there has been a recent intensification of the war against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing Gulf of Guinea. Bob Barker Captain Julian McGale said despite governments worldwide cutting back on fisheries monitoring and control programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “the government of Benin is continuing its patrols at sea and the Maritime Commissioner is ramping up his efforts to combat illegal fishing.”
Sea Shepherd has in recent times provided use of civilian offshore patrol vessels to countries such as Gabon, Tanzania, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Liberia, The Gambia, and now Benin as the battle to stop IUU fishing along their coastal areas and “enforce fisheries regulations and conservation laws in their sovereign waters.”
Benin is one of the countries in the Gulf of Guinea that has remained vulnerable to IUU fishing, which has devastated its fisheries. A similar trend persists in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, all countries subscribed to the Fisheries Committee for West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC).
FCWC has previously, with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), developed a Regional Plan of Action on tackling IUU that recommends among other measures cooperation among FCWC members and other countries in West Africa, implementation of port of state controls and strengthening of the FCWC working group on monitoring, control, and surveillance.