China Responds to Sea Shepherd on Driftnet Case
The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture has written to the environmental organization Sea Shepherd describing the fate of six illegal driftnet fishing vessels apprehended earlier this year.
Operation Driftnet, a campaign launched by Sea Shepherd Global to expose, confront and shut down illegal fishing operations launched in February 2016, involved the location and pursuit of the Chinese Fu Yuan Yu fleet and evidence gathering of their driftnet operations.
As a result, the Chinese government has temporarily suspended the fishing licenses of all of the vessels owned by the company, the Dong Xing Long Ocean Fishing Company. The six vessels of the Fu Yuan Yu fleet have been ordered to remain in port for an indefinite period. In addition, the captains of the fishing vessels have had their certification as Masters permanently revoked, and each vessel has been fined the equivalent of $300,000 dollars.
During Operation Driftnet, Sea Shepherd pursued the vessels from the Indian Ocean back to Chinese waters. The Chinese Navy allowed the organization’s vessel, the Steve Irwin, to continue the pursuit through the South China Sea to the coast of China.
With the six ships in Chinese ports, the Chinese government took over the investigation. In response to Sea Shepherd’s initial discovery and documentation of the illegal use of driftnets (banned globally since 1992), the Chinese government ordered the six ships to return to Mainland China for investigation and inspection.
Once in port, the government investigation found that the Fu Yuan Yu 071, Fu Yuan Yu 073 and Fu Yuan Yu 076 did indeed engage in illegal activities by using driftnets in the Indian Ocean. The investigation into the other three vessels of the fleet is ongoing.
Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said, “This intervention has removed six very destructive poaching ships from the Indian Ocean and has sent a strong message to Chinese flagged ships around the globe that China is serious about international fisheries law and enforcement.”
The text of the letter
Dear Captain Alex Cornelissen,
First of all, on behalf of China fishery competent authority, I would like to express our sincerely appreciation for your and the Sea Shepherd Global's timely notification and constant attention regarding the case of illegal driftnet fishing by some Chinese fishing vessels in the southern Indian Ocean. We attached great importance to this case and immediately conducted a detailed and comprehensive investigation as soon as we received your email below. I wish to take this opportunity to inform you the investigation outcomes the actions we have taken as follows.
We ordered the fishing vessels concerned to come back its home port immediately to accept investigation and conducted a port inspection and checked carefully all the related documents on board the fishing vessels, including customs declaration, logbook, mate's receipt, cargo manifest, as well as all the information provided by your side, and talked face-to-face with some crew members of fishing vessels concerned, we also polled the VMS track record from our platform and showed that these vessels did not called at any other port during their return course to China. From all the evidence and information we collected we could finally draw the conclusion that three fishing vessels, namely Fu Yuan Yu 071,Fu Yuan Yu 073 and Fu Yuan Yu 076 did engage in such illegal fishing activities as driftnet fishing in the southern Indian Ocean, however, we didn't find any highly migratory species on board these fishing vessels.
According to Chinese Fisheries Law, we take the following punishment to these involved fishing vessels:
Firstly, temporarily suspend the fishing license for all the fishing vessels (not only the involved three fishing vessels) of the same company. Currently, the three fishing vessels are asked to stay in port for further rectification for an indefinite duration.
Secondly, permanently revoke the captain's certification of the three fishing vessels and imposed a penalty to each captain.
Thirdly, impose the maximum fine to each of the three fishing vessels, each equivalent to around 300 thousand US dollars.
We will also inform the results to relevant RFMOs if it is necessary.
I would like thank you for your assistance and cooperation on this case.
Division of Deep Sea Fishing,
Bureau of Fisheries,
Ministry of Agriculture, China.