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Namibia gets a grip on illegal fishing trawlers

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A longliner boarded for inspection. Image credit: Sea Shepherd

Namibia gets a grip on illegal fishing trawlers

Over the past several months, the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), the Namibian Police (NAMPOL) and Sea Shepherd Global have successfully carried out joint surveillance activities, defending Namibian waters from factory trawlers suspected of sneaking into Namibian waters and plundering horse mackerel off the Skeleton Coast. 

Incidents of ‘border hopping’ by foreign industrial factory trawlers that fish illegally in the most remote areas of Namibia’s sovereign waters have largely ceased due to at-sea patrols with Namibian fisheries inspectors and police officers working in collaboration with Sea Shepherd crew on board the Sea Shepherd Global vessel Ocean Warrior to defend protected zones.

Three years ago, Namibian law enforcement stationed on board the Ocean Warrior intercepted an illegal fishing vessel moving at trawling speed, 20 nautical miles inside of Namibia’s maritime borders.

On sighting the Ocean Warrior the illegal fishing vessel immediately changed course to escape apprehension. The Ocean Warrior came within 300m of the illegal fishing vessel, operating in close quarter situations in efforts to slow the larger vessel down. The unidentified fishing vessel had no discernible vessel markings, and unfortunately the illegal fishing vessel could not be boarded due to unfavorable weather conditions at the time.

The return of Ocean Warrior to Namibian waters under the invitation and direction of the MFMR, is a proud continuation of Operation Vanguard, an effort to increase patrol capacity under the leadership of the MFMR after the government received intelligence that incursions had resumed.

The Namibian coastline can be treacherous for inexperienced fishermen, as the shipwreck on the Skeleton Coast in the video clip below illustrates. WhyAfrica took the footage during its recent WhyAfrica road trip.

Ocean Warrior deters illegal fishers

“The presence of the Ocean Warrior is a big deterrence to illegal fishers. The Ocean Warrior has become the shepherd of the borderlands, watching over schools of horse mackerel. When the ship is there, the poachers do not cross and the fish swim free”, says Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd Global’s Director of Campaigns.

In the course of the patrols, a local longliner refused to stop for law enforcement, requiring NAMPOL officers to do a forced boarding using a telescopic tactical ladder due to the high freeboard, the distance between the ship’s deck and the waterline.

After armed NAMPOL officers scrambled aboard, secured and stopped the ship, an MFMR fisheries inspector discovered that the fishing vessel, which predominantly targeted tuna, carried far more shark fins than corresponding trunks–the remaining bodies–leading to suspicion that bodies had been thrown overboard.

The vessel was arrested and remains detained in the Port of Walvis Bay.

Fines have been issued for other infractions discovered by Namibian fisheries inspectors during routine boardings and inspections of other local fishing vessels, strengthening monitoring, control and surveillance efforts.

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