Illegal Fishing: Navy Nabs Over 13 Crew Members, Confiscates Trawler In Bayelsa

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The Nigerian Navy has arrested over 13 crew members and one fishing trawler over illegal fishing in Bayelsa State, South-South Nigeria.

The crew members and the trawler, MFV LADY TERESA, were apprehended on August 18, by Naval operatives with the Forward Operating Base in Bayelsa and handed over to the Federal Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture following their arrest off Brass waters in Brass Local Government Area.

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The clampdown on the fishing trawler and crew members by the Nigerian authorities comes in the wake of a cross-national investigation by The New Diplomat, exposing the extent of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Gulf of Guinea (West Africa) and the Western Indian Ocean along East Africa’s coast.

According to the Commanding Officer of the Base, Captain Muhammed Alhassan, those arrested were 13 Nigerians.

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Alhassan said the mariner had switched off its Automatic Identification System and violated the no trolling zone of 5NM from shoreline.

The Commanding Officer urged all mariners to be law abiding as they carry out their activities within the Nigerian maritime environment.

He said: “All mariners and their agents must be aware that the Nigerian Navy has the capacity to track any vessel within the Nigerian waters up to Exclusive Economic Zone through the FALCON EYE and RMAC system.

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“So, mariners are warned to keep their automatic identification and communication system operational, as switching it off constitutes a violation of the Nigerian maritime law.”

Alhassan said that the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, had directed all Nigerian Navy operational units to strictly monitor all vessels and ensure compliance to maritime laws.

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He said: “The Nigerian Navy will not spare any offender that violates any of these laws within Nigeria’s maritime domain.

“Today, I hereby hand over MFV LADY TERESA to the representative of the Federal Department of Fisheries for further investigation and possible prosecution.”

The New Diplomat had reported that the theft of ocean resources for countries situated along the African coasts means economic losses worth more than US$10 billion annually, a study by the University of British Columbia (UBC) had estimated.

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According to checks by this newspaper, the major IUU fishing activities common in the Gulf of Guinea include fish trans-shipment; unauthorized fishing in closed areas or seasons; illegal fishing by foreign vessels (distance water fleets); catching undersized, threatened and endangered fish species as well as taking fish in excess of the approved quota.

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Reacting to the arrest of the crew members, Ifeanyiwa James, Field Officer, Federal Department of Fishery in Rivers State, said the mariner would be investigated and prosecuted, if found guilty.

James who commended the Navy for safeguarding Nigeria’s maritime domain and lauded them for the collaboration which had long existed, said: “There are laws governing the industry, that if anyone broke the law, the person would be prosecuted accordingly.”

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