On January 2, the Chinese-flagged fishing vessel Guo Ji 809 was arrested by the Liberian Coast Guard with the assistance of the marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd for illegal fishing in the nation’s waters. Fishing without a Liberian fishing license is the most serious offense under Liberian Fisheries Regulations and carries a fine of up to $1,000,000.
Sea Shepherd’s vessel M/Y Sam Simon detected the fishing vessel by radar as it navigated Liberian waters at a speed indicating trawling activity. A Liberian Coast Guard Boarding Team mobilized and found the vessel had just retrieved a trawl net. The vessel had been issued a Liberian fishing license, but the license had expired on December 31, 2017. The Guo Ji 809 had continued to fish into the new year, both on January 1 and 2, allegedly against the advice of the Liberian Fisheries Observer on board, who admitted that the vessel was actively engaged in fishing.
The Guo Ji 809 was placed under arrest and is now detained in the port of Monrovia awaiting prosecution.
Since February 2017, under the name Operation Sola Stella, Sea Shepherd been assisting the government of Liberia to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (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. Since Operation Sola Stella commenced almost one year ago, Sea Shepherd has assisted the Liberian Coast Guard to arrest eight fishing vessels involved in illegal fishing.
“The arrest of the Guo Ji 809 highlights the need for constant vigilance at sea,” said Brownie Samukai, Minister of National Defense for Liberia. “Although Operation Sola Stella has brought an end to incursions of unlicensed foreign industrial fishing vessels, we must be equally invested in controlling vessels that are, or have been, licensed to fish in Liberia.”
Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing, which accounts for up to 40 percent of the fish caught in West African waters.