Despite great efforts to conceal its identity, the 32-meter trawler 'Bonheur' was intercepted by the Liberian Coast Guard on 7 of November, after crossing into Liberian waters from neighboring Côte d'Ivoire with its fishing gear in the water. On sighting the Coast Guard, the captain of the Bonheur immediately changed course, increased speed and attempted to flee Liberian waters. Using the small boat of Sea Shepherd’s ship, the 'Sam Simon', the Liberian Coast Guard were able to board and secure the Bonheur before it could escape justice.
The boarding team discovered that nets had been draped over the name of the vessel in a bid to conceal its identity from artisanal fishermen who could have otherwise reported the incursion to the Liberian Coast Guard.
The Bonheur was arrested fishing five nautical miles off the coast, within the six-nautical-mile area the Liberian government banned industrial trawling, in a bid to protect livelihoods of Liberia’s fishermen. The ban, enacted through the establishment of an inshore exclusion zone (IEZ), has resulted in a noticeable increase in fish populations off the coast, Sea Shepherd reports.
The Bonheur was subsequently escorted to port by the Sam Simon, where its cargo of fish was confiscated by Liberian authorities, and now the vessel awaits justice.
The arrest of the Bonheur marks the start of Operation Sola Stella III, the third partnership between Sea Shepherd and the Liberian Ministry of National Defense. The apprehension is the 13th arrest of a vessel for fisheries crimes in Liberian waters since February 2017.