By Dyhia Belhabib
Let’s celebrate a small contribution which led to a major achievement. Earlier this week I wrote about #COFI32 at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
There, I met with the new director of the Senegalese Department of Fisheries Monitoring and Surveillance (DPSP), Commander Mamadou Ndiaye.
Commander Ndiaye told us the story of the Gotland and the issues the DPSP encounters, current cases, and how they could be helped through e.g. legal support on how to document infractions as it was now guaranteed that most vessels will dispute IUU cases in courts, the fines having significantly increased.
The Gotland was spotted fishing illegally within the Senegalese Exclusive Economic Zone, south of the Mauritanian border last week. It was chased by the Senegalese navy up until north of the border for four hours, at which point it became dangerous.
The vessel had the St Vincent and the Grenadines flag and had ”a Mauritanian fishing license” according to Commander Ndiaye.
I introduced Commander Ndiaye to the lead on illegal fishing at Vulcan, to discuss avenues of collaborations and I bridged the conversation. I understood that the first step would be to locate the vessel. A simple suggestion was “maybe Mark Powell from Vulcan can help locating the vessel”, “if you know where it is, you may know what to do next”. The DPSP had already written to the Spanish government, without knowing the whereabouts of the culprit, but what if it was in Spain.
Gotland, found in Las Palmas (Spain) after it escaped from Senegalese authorities, who observed the vessel fishing illegally in Senegalese waters south of the Mauritanian border
A few moments after the meeting, Mark Powell sends an email to the Commander with the location of the Gotland… Las Palmas, Just as we were discussing the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) ratified by the EU, at COFI.
I was impressed by the effectiveness of the DPSP. Despite what could be perceived as a very bureaucratic system in Senegal, an official letter was immediately drafted and sent to the Spanish government, requesting action. I must stress that the DPSP had formally written to the Spanish government before our meeting but their answer was dissatisfying and invited a long process.
Less than a week later, the Senegalese government representative (working at the DPSP) is sent to Madrid to discuss the payment modalities of a 1.5 million Euros fine.
Gotland joins another Spanish vessel Praia De Areamilla busted for fishing without an authorization as the court in Dakar pronounced yesterday (July 22nd) 750,000 Euros in fines in addition to the confiscation of the fishing gear and catches.
Congratulations to the DPSP, the fisheries ministry and the Senegalese navy on their great work and efforts to combat illegal fishing!