Sierra Leone issues record fine
Sep 21, 2012

Sierra Leone issues record fine

By EJF Staff

Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources has issued a record million dollar fine against a Korean-flagged vessel apprehended following a 9 month investigation by EJF.

In August 2012, Marcia 777 was arrested for violating a range of Sierra Leonean fishing laws and regulations. The most serious act was the illegal exportation of fish through at-sea transshipments, a method used to mask the actual levels of catch extracted from Sierra Leone’s waters. The offences occurred in January 2012 and were documented by EJF's team in Sierra Leone and London following the receipt of information from local communities, other industrial vessels and material available online.

However, the vessel fled before the Sierra Leonean Government could arrest it. Marcia 777 is believed to have operated in Guinea for much of 2012 during which time it was described as a “fugitive vessel” by the Minister of Fisheries, Dr Soccoh Kabia. On 16th July 2012, however, EJF acted on local intelligence to confirm that the vessel had returned to Sierra Leone in an attempt to resume fishing activities.

Following its arrest, MFMR undertook a one-week investigation – including analysis of the vessel’s written and electronic records – and concluded that it had committed four sets of illegal actions. In total, it has been fined US $1,050,000 alongside a forfeit of 2,715 cartons of frozen fish. The vessel’s owners, based in Las Palmas, have declared that they are unable to pay the fine, and have asked for negotiation to take place. Sierra Leone have declined and are pursuing the full payment.

“Over the last year, we have witnessed significant progress in fisheries enforcement in Sierra Leone. It is vitally important that these laws are taken seriously and are fully implemented. The continuing efforts by the Government of Sierra Leone and active partners in the country can ensure a permanent crackdown on IUU fishing vessels in Sierra Leone waters, thereby helping to maintain a healthy and sustainable fisheries sector, provide food and employment for local communities and restore marine biodiversity. By acting forcefully and in collaboration internationally we can take the profit out of pirate fishing and protect our seas and oceans.” Steve Trent, Executive Director of EJF