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Notorious Toothfish Poacher Arrested by Liberian Coast Guard, Assisted by Sea Shepherd

Animals
Notorious Toothfish Poacher Arrested by Liberian Coast Guard, Assisted by Sea Shepherd
Sea Shepherd small boat assists the Liberian Coast Guard to chase down the F/V Hai Lung. Sea Shepherd

A notorious Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish poaching vessel, famous for plundering the Antarctic, was arrested on March 13 in waters belonging to the West African state of Liberia by the Liberian Coast Guard, with assistance from the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd.

The F/V Hai Lung, known to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) by its previous name "Kily," was transiting through Liberian waters when it was boarded and inspected by a Liberian Coast Guard team working alongside Sea Shepherd crew on board Sea Shepherd's patrol vessel M/Y Sam Simon.


Operating under a long list of different names, including "Yele," "Ray," "Kily," "Constant," "Tropic" and "Isla Graciosa," the F/V Hai Lung is an infamous fishing vessel that has been blacklisted by several regional fisheries management organizations including CCAMLR, SEAFO and NEAFC.

As a result, the vessel has been denied port access in Togo and Angola, and unofficial sources state that it was detained in Nigeria for entering Nigerian waters without authorization last year.

Once on board the F/V Hai Lung, the Liberian Coast Guard boarding officer was presented with forged documentation alleging that the F/V Hai Lung was flagged to the Republic of Indonesia as a fishing vessel.

The Certificate of Nationality was allegedly issued on Aug. 8, 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia by a senior Ministry of Transportation official who had long since been transferred to another government position. The Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries has no record of the vessel in their databases.

The forged Certificate of Nationality makes the F/V Hai Lung a vessel "without nationality," subject to seizure anywhere, including on the High Seas.

"On those grounds, including a long list of other violations, not least of all suspected absconsion from justice in Nigeria through bribing Maritime Security Police, the Liberian Coast Guard has decided to arrest the F/V Hai Lung, detaining it at the Liberian Coast Guard Base in the Port of Monrovia pending further investigation," said Daniel Ziankahn, Liberian minister of national defense.

The owner of the F/V Hai Lung is believed to be Argibay Perez of Spain, a notorious toothfish poacher belonging to the "Galician Mafia" who has been convicted of crimes in both La Réunion (France) and Australia. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Western Australia, on fining Mr. Perez, concluded that "the applicant committed six offences that are of a serious nature and where the level of criminality was high."

Perez is also linked to the F/V Viking, a vessel that was issued an Interpol Purple Notice in 2013 before being arrested and sunk by the Indonesian Navy in 2016.

"On board the F/V Hai Lung, the Liberian Coast Guard team uncovered a contact registry that included over a dozen infamous toothfish poachers including two of the rouge toothfish poachers known as "the Bandit Six": F/V Viking and the F/V Thunder, both subjects of Interpol Purple Notices before they were destroyed. The latter was a vessel that my crew and I chased for 110 days before it sank in the Gulf of Guinea in April of 2015. Since Indonesia has been a world leader in cracking down on illegal fishing, it is equal parts audacious and insulting, that the F/V Hai Lung attempted to forge Indonesian documents," said Sea Shepherd global director of campaigns Peter Hammarstedt.

About Operation Sola Stella

Since February 2017, under the name Operation Sola Stella, Sea Shepherd has been assisting the Government of Liberia to tackle IUU fishing by providing the use of a civilian offshore patrol vessel and crew operating in Liberian waters, under the direction of the Liberian Ministry of National Defense. Operation Sola Stella has resulted in the arrest of eleven vessels for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing, which accounts for up to 40 percent of the fish caught in West African waters.

In 2016 Sea Shepherd partnered with the government of Gabon for Operation Albacore, resulting in more than 80 fishing vessel inspections at sea and the subsequent arrest of five IUU Congolese fishing trawlers and one Spanish longliner.

In 2018, Sea Shepherd began Operation Jodari with patrols against IUU fishing in the waters of Tanzania in partnership with the Tanzanian Deep Sea Fishing Authority, Tanzanian Navy, Tanzanian Drug Enforcement Agency, the Multi-Agency Task Team (MATT) and Fish-i Africa.

Operation Sola Stella is a continuation of Sea Shepherd Global's commitment to work actively with national governments and their law enforcement agencies in the fight against IUU fishing. Read more about the campaign here: https://www.seashepherdglobal.org/our-campaigns/operation-sola-stella/

Susanna Pershern / Submerged Resources Center/ National Park Service / public domain

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