On August 6, the Spanish long-line fishing vessel Alemar Primero was boarded in waters belonging to the Central African island state of São Tomé, and authorities found the vessel’s holds filled with dead sharks.
The Príncipe by São Toméan authorities, assisted by Sea Shepherd crew and law enforcement officers from Gabon, confirmed that most of the sharks were blue sharks, classified as “near-threatened” by the IUCN.
The long liner was licensed to fish for “tuna and similar species.”
Many of the shark’s fins had already been detached from their bodies, a suspected violation, says Sea Shepherd, of the European Union Finning Ban (1185/2003) and its amendment (605/2013), which requires sharks to be landed with their Fins Naturally Attached (FNA).
São Toméan authorities ordered the long-liner to retrieve their fishing gear, release their catch and proceed to São Tomé for investigation. With four marines remaining on board for security, the long-liner was escorted to São Tomé by the Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker.
On August 7, the Alemar Primero arrived in the fishing village of Neves where it will remain, pending investigations.
Since April 2016, under the name Operation Albacore, Sea Shepherd has been assisting the Government of Gabon to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by providing the use of the Bob Barker as a civilian offshore patrol vessel operating in Gabonese waters, under the direction of the Gabonese Government.
In August, São Tomé and Príncipe sent two marines and one fisheries observer from São Tomé to join Sea Shepherd crew, Gabonese marines and Gabonese fisheries enforcement officers on board the Bob Barker, to further detect and deter illegal fishing in the Gulf of Guinea.