Transshipment is transferring fish from one vessel to another to obscure the origin of the illegally-caught fish and the M/V Hai Feng 823 had previously transshipped with two other arrested vessels.
Crew on board the Sea Shepherd ship M/V Sam Simon assisted the Liberian Coast Guard to board the M/V Hai Feng 823 using two Sea Shepherd rigid-hulled inflatable boats.
During the inspection, the captain of the M/V Hai Feng 823 presented the Liberian Coast Guard with an official set of paperwork showing that there were 21,409 cartons of fish on board the ship.
However, the Liberian Coast Guard uncovered an unofficial set of paperwork indicating that there were actually 25,459 cartons of fish on board the vessel.
The Liberian Coast Guard also saw a Letter of Authorization from Sierra Leone, allowing the M/V Hai Feng 823 to export 24,000 cartons of fish that had allegedly been transshipped in the waters of Sierra Leone. This means that the amount of fish carried by the M/V Hai Feng 823 is over the authorization provided by Sierra Leone, their last port of call.
The M/V Hai Feng 823 was arrested on suspicion of lying to a Liberian Coast Guard officer, presenting false documents and conspiring to breach the tax and customs law of Liberia.
The Honorable Daniel Ziankahn, Liberia’s Minister of National Defense, stated:
Vessels involved in tax and customs crimes will often keep two sets of paperwork on board: a false set that they present to authorities during inspection and another true accounting that is presented to the ship’s company but is kept hidden from law enforcement agents
For his part, Alistair Allan, Sea Shepherd’s captain of the M/V Sam Simon, noted that reefers contribute greatly to illegal fishing as they are used to launder the catch of criminal operators. On these ships, legal catch can be mixed with illegal catch, and catch origin can be impossible to deduce.