The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources compliance officials and Sea Shepherd, through Sea Shepherd’s vessel the ‘Ocean Warrior’ jointly carried out successful surveillance activities in Namibia’s Exclusive Economic lone (EEl) from 26 April to 15 June.
The main objective of the joint patrols was to tackle Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Namibian waters and the joint operation was named Operation Vanguard.
The initiative assisted the Fisheries ministry and other local law enforcement agencies to force illegal and foreign industrial factory trawlers out of the Namibian EEl suspected to have targeted horse mackerel stocks by IUU activities.
According to the ministry in a statement, large foreign industrial factory trawlers – former Soviet Union made trawlers, have been border ‘ hopping’, sneaking into Namibia’s EEl 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 EEl. 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 origin of catches,” the ministry said.
“That is why the Namibian Marine Resources Act bans transhipment out at sea and only allows it to happen in-port or in the presence of law enforcement officers,” they added.
According to the ministry, the joint operation On 26 April intercepted an illegal fishing vessel moving at trawling speed, 20 nautical miles south of the border between Angola and Namibia, but unfortunately did not apprehend the suspects.
“While the government has taken conservation measures to protect the horse mackerel fishery, critical to the economy and the ecosystem health of Namibia – these conservation measures must also include at-sea patrols. With the Operation Vanguard concluded, criminal operators plundering Namibian waters off the Skeleton Coast have received the message that the Namibian Government is vigilant in defending its fisheries,” said Hon.Bernhard Esau, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources upon briefing by the Director of Operations.
“Sea Shepherd’s cooperation with the ministry is supported by the Southern African Development Community, Stop Illegal Fishing and the FISH-I Africa Task Force who share a common goal of increasing the at-sea capacity in Southern Africa. Limited oversight of industrial fisheries is a leading cause of IUU fishing,” said Per Erik Bergh, Coordinator of Stop Illegal Fishing.
Since 2016, Sea Shepherd has been working in partnership with the governments of Gabon, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, Benin and Tanzania to combat IUU fishing by providing the use of civilian offshore patrol vessels to African coastal states so that authorities can enforce fisheries regulations and conservation laws in their sovereign waters.
To date, the unique partnerships have resulted in the arrest of 30 vessels involved in illegal fishing and other fisheries crimes.