In a joint operation in partnership with the Liberian Ministry of National Defense to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Republic of Liberia, West Africa, Sea Shepherd has assisted the Liberian Coast Guard with the arrest of a foreign-flagged purse seine fishing vessel with a criminal history of illegal fishing in Liberia. The vessel caught, Solevant, is the 15th arrest of an illegal-fishing vessel in the area.
Mainly, the fishing vessel (F/V) Solevant, a 55-meter purse seiner flagged to Senegal, was boarded for an inspection by the Liberian Coast Guard from a small boat belonging to the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker on April 7th as the vessel was known to have been previously convicted and fined in 2012 by Liberian authorities for unlicensed fishing activities, undeclared catches, and the use of a forged Liberian fishing license.
During the inspection, the captain of the Solevant gave Liberian Coast Guard inspectors a copy of an alleged Liberian fishing license.
Under the Liberian Fisheries Regulations, the original or a certified copy, must be carried on board in order to prevent fraud.
Yet, the license number attributed to the alleged license copy was the same as the number issued for another vessel, namely the F/V Panofi Discoverer.
In the meantime, the captain wasn’t able to provide a fishing log book, which is used to prove where the fish was caught, as well as a cargo manifest, a legal requirement for documenting the fish already on board. It is common practice among illegal operators to not officially log their catch and cargo.
As a result, the Solevant was arrested and escorted by the Liberian Coast Guard and the Bob Barker to the Port of Monrovia.
The apprehension of the Solevant is the 15th arrest of a vessel for fisheries crimes in Liberian waters since February 2017 when the partnership – named Operation Sola Stella – started between Liberia’s Ministry of National Defense and Sea Shepherd.
Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns for Sea Shepherd Global stated
In 2012 satellite tracking proved that the Solevant, then operating under the name Santa Maria, was fishing illegally in the Liberian EEZ in February, June, July and September of that year. The vessel was found to be carrying a forged Liberian fishing license. The vessel has now returned to Liberian waters, using the fishing license number of another vessel, a ploy that did not escape the vigilance of the Liberian Coast Guard supported by Australian Captain Anteo Broadfield and the Bob Barker crew.