A Ghanaian-flagged purse seiner has been apprehended for illegally fishing in Liberian waters. The anti-poaching group Sea Shepherd assisted the Liberian Coast Guard in the detainment, and the vessel, found with tuna catch on board, now awaits legal action. This could involve a fine of millions of dollars.
The 71-meter vessel, Panofi Fore Runner (GT 1,100), was found with 700 tons of tuna which was seized as the vessel was fishing in Liberia’s EEZ without a fishing license. As this is the most serious offence under the Liberian Fisheries Regulations, the vessel owners, Panofi Company Ltd, could be fined up to USD 1 million. Nine FADs were also used by the seiner which constitutes a separate offense, reportedly for a possible USD 9 million.
Liberian Minister of National Defense, Brownie Samukai, said it was “clear evidence that they had something to hide” when the Master and Chief Officer offered bribes of USD 1,450 and USD 6,911 to Liberian Coast Guard boarding officers. Samukai gives this as a reason why the Ministry is “resolute in combatting illegal fishing as transnational organized crime”.
This is not the first time Panofi Company Ltd has been convicted of fishing offences as its ship Panofi Discoverer was also found illegally fishing in Liberian waters in 2013. The company is based in Ghana while its main shareholder is Silla, the second largest tuna fishing corporation in Korea. Panofi manages six purse seiners and two carrier vessels.
The Liberian Coast Guard were able to seize the boat with the help of Sea Shepherd – a group which has received criticism in the past for supposedly using violent means of protest and detaining ships unlawfully. This latest detainment of an IUU vessel has been described by the group as illustrating the “importance of government and civil society working together to stop illegal fishing”. Read the rejoinder from Atuna