Sea Shepherd's Law Enforcement Campaign Secures Arrests

law and order
Gambian Navy personnel board and inspect a trawler during a patrol aboard the Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon (Sea Shepherd Global)

Published Nov 18, 2020 6:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

Environmental activist group Sea Shepherd is seeing success in its new law enforcement role off the coast of West Africa. In partnership with national governments, Sea Shepherd is conducting fishery patrol missions and delivering government boarding teams to suspect fishing vessels for inspections at sea - and securing arrests. 

On November 4, Gambian law enforcement and military personnel aboard the Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon raided three trawlers that they found fishing inside protected waters reserved for artisanal fishermen. 

The fishing trawlers Gorde 105, Gorde 106 and Gorde 107 were boarded, arrested and escorted to the Gambian port of Banjul. Two of the trawlers, Gorde 105 and Gorde 107, were also "double-bagging" their net - the act of fishing with one net inside of another one - so as to get around minimum mesh size requirements, another offense under Gambian fisheries regulations. Three days later, the team also arrested the fishing vessel Xing Xi Wang 1 for fishing with the wrong mesh size.  

The Gambia has created a nine-nautical mile Special Management Area to conserve a segment of the nation's sardinella fishery for artisanal fishermen. However, industrial trawlers routinely come close to the shoreline, depleting the fishery and running over artisanal fishermen's nets, according to Sea Shepherd.

"At-sea patrols are needed to ensure compliance as well as deterring industrial trawlers from entering protected areas," said Mar Casariego, the captain of the Sam Simon. 

Sea Shepherd's patrol ship Bob Barker (a former whaling vessel) recently helped Beninese authorities carry out a similar bust, spotting an unauthorized fishing vessel in a reserved artisanal fishing area and tracking it back to port for interdiction and arrest. 

Since 2016, Sea Shepherd has been working with the governments of Gabon, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tanzania, Benin, Namibia and The Gambia on joint fisheries enforcement patrols. To date, these partnerships have resulted in the arrest of nearly 60 vessels for IUU fishing and other violations.