By Dipo Olowookere
Shark fins have been discovered on two Chinese fishing vessels during a joint surveillance conducted by Greenpeace and Guinean fishery authorities.
One of the vessels also had illegally altered fishing nets on board, while a third Chinese vessel was caught using illegal nets and fishing for species outside of its license.
The two vessels with shark fins on board have been fined with €250,000 each, while the third vessel has been fined with €350,000. The catch of all vessels have been seized by Guinean authorities.
Apart from the shark fins, Greenpeace also found numerous carcasses of sharks including hammerhead sharks, an endangered species, and manta rays on board several vessels.
Details of the affected vessels are The Lian Run 34, found with shark fins on board on March 31, 2017.
The Lian Run 47, inspections on April 4 uncovered shark fins hidden between crates on the ship as well as non-authorised net adjustments. Both ships are owned by Dalian Lian Run Pelagic Fishery Company Ltd, one of China’s largest distant water fishing companies. Guinean authorities confiscated both ships’ fishing licenses, the captain’s passport, along with other navigation documents.
The third is The Fu Yuan Yu 379, which was inspected on April 2, 2017 and inspectors found it had adjusted nets, which is illegal. Inspectors also uncovered 30 bags of shark carcasses including a huge hammerhead shark. On April 3, The Fu Yuan Yu 379 was spotted again fishing outside the area of its licence and having discarded the bags of sharks that was considered evidence. The vessel will likely face further sanctions.
The vessel is owned by Fujian Pingtan Hengli Fishery Company Ltd. The vessel has been fined for illegal net adjustments which is categorised under ‘very serious’ infraction of Guinean law. Current legislation does not penalise sharks being caught as a bycatch.
Commenting on the development, Greenpeace Africa Oceans campaigner, Mr Ahmed Diame, stated that, “What we’re seeing here is an utter lack of respect for West African fishing laws. It also shows that local laws need to be strengthened to meet international standards where endangered sharks are no longer a legal catch.
“That is why we are recommending that coastal states improve their monitoring capacity and local legislation to protect marine life and livelihoods of local fishing communities.”
In total, Greenpeace and local officials inspected and boarded 12 vessels during their joint surveillance this past week.
These included 9 Chinese vessels, 1 Korean vessel, and 2 Guinean-flagged vessels. In one of the Chinese vessels, a letter was found issued by China’s distant water fishing association on March 10 and reminding Chinese fishing vessels to fish legally and to be cooperative with authorities’ inspections.
According to Pavel Klinckhamers, Campaign leader onboard the Esperanza, “We thought the letter would have deterred Chinese fishing vessels from illegal activities during the period of the joint patrols, but apparently this was not the case.
“Several fishing vessels belonging to Chinese companies continued their illegal fishing practices, despite the warning. This shows the complete disregard of local laws by these companies, while they should behave as responsible guests in these waters”
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