Guinea Bissau President José Mário Vaz visits Greenpeace ship after arrest of illegal fishing vessels
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is currently on an expedition in West Africa to document the threat from overfishing to the marine environment and food security for millions of Africans depending on fish to survive
West Africa is the only region in the world where fish consumption is declining due to over-exploitation of resources by too many vessels and by illegal fishing operations
Four fishing vessels have been arrested in Guinea Bissau waters after joint patrols by Greenpeace (www.Greenpeace.org/Africa/en) and the Fisheries Surveillance Department of Guinea Bissau, FISCAP, found multiple fishing infringements. The findings of the joint surveillance were presented to President José Mário Vaz on his visit to the Greenpeace Ship ‘My Esperanza’ on Tuesday. The arrested vessels were brought to port, and the crew onboard as well as the owners of the vessels are now being investigated by local authorities for illegal transhipment at sea, failure to display readable names on the vessels, non-payment of fines and usage of illegal fishing equipment.
Pavel Klinckhamers, project leader onboard the Greenpeace ship, the Esperanza, said: “The fact that we managed to come across such a high number of vessels breaking the law in only a few days really confirms the alarming ‘Wild-West’ situation in the waters of West Africa. Fishing companies and crews have gotten used to exploiting Guinea Bissau’s insufficiently managed waters, and our findings show that illegal operations are most likely taking place on a daily basis. We commend the commitment from the highest level of the Bissau government to curb the ongoing situation.”
On 22 March, crew and three inspectors onboard the Esperanza caught Comoros flagged Saly Reefer doing illegal transhipment with the fishing vessels Flipper 3, Flipper 4 and Flipper 5, also flying Comoros flags. Transshipment at sea has often been linked to hiding fish caught without a license. Transshipment was banned by the government of Guinea Bissau in 2015.
Shortly after the boarding and the first inspection of the Saly Reefer and Flipper 4 by Greenpeace crew and inspectors, both vessels were escorted to the port of Bissau. The ships are owned by Las Palmas based Sea Group SL, and both the owners, as well as the crew onboard the two vessels, now face legal action and a fine.
On 21 March, three Chinese flagged fishing vessels Yi Feng 8, Yi Feng 9, and Yi Feng 10 were spotted 50 nautical miles from the shore of Guinea Bissau by Greenpeace and the inspectors. The vessels had names written only in Chinese, even though all fishing vessels are required by law to carry easily recognisable names. All three vessels are owned by the same Chinese company, Dalian Zhangzidao Yi Feng Aquatic Product Company Ltd. One of the vessels, the Yi Feng 8 was arrested and sent to port, while the other two managed to escape. However, their infringements were documented well enough to ensure the owners and crew will be prosecuted.
On 24 March, Greenpeace and the inspectors spotted another Chinese vessel, the Chang Yuan Yu 05, while it was fishing off the coast of the Bijagos Archipelago. The vessel is known by local authorities, since it’s owners have failed to pay a fine for using illegal nets in September last year. The vessel was boarded, arrested and taken back to the port of Bissau, where it will be detained until the fine is paid.
Dr Cisse, Ocean Campaign Manager in Greenpeace Africa, said: “West Africa is the only region in the world where fish consumption is declining due to over-exploitation of resources by too many vessels and by illegal fishing operations. The repercussions of fish stock depletion on food security and economy in some of the most vulnerable countries in the world is extremely concerning and must be tackled. In West Africa, where people rely heavily on fish as one of their main sources of protein, it is a vital source of income and employment for nearly seven million people. That is why we strongly encourage West African governments to set up a regional fisheries management body.”
Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in West Africa, IUU, is estimated to reduce the number of jobs in artisanal sectors by 300,000, and from 2010 to 2016 Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, lost around 2.3 billion USD annually in revenues, while a minimal amount of 13 million USD was recovered through Monitoring, Control and Surveillance, MCS. The highest number of IUU offenses in the West African region occurred in Guinea Bissau. In 2014, Guinea Bissau authorities documented as many as eight vessels fishing illegally during just one week of patrol. However, sanctions for breaking the law at sea in Guinea Bissau are either too weak or the law is not enforced properly. 
About the Tour
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is currently on an expedition in West Africa to document the threat from overfishing to the marine environment and food security for millions of Africans depending on fish to survive. An expanding number of fishing operations are taking place in these rich waters, not only by foreign fleets but also by an increasing number of domestic, industrial fishing vessels. The Esperanza has already visited Cape Verde and Mauritania and now Guinea Bissau, where the joint patrol between Greenpeace and FISCAP was set up as a result of a special request from President José Mário Vaz, Guinea Bissau. The Esperanza will continue to engage in joint surveillance with local authorities in selected West African countries until the beginning of May.
Greenpeace is campaigning for the setup of a strong, regional management body in West Africa to ensure transparency, improvement of governance and positive impact on local economy and employment in all countries if this region.
 Information about transshipment here: http://APO.af/VJMl3.
 The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concludes that the majority of pelagic and demersal fish in West Africa’s waters are either fully exploited or overexploited (http://APO.af/00a0Xx). Already in 2009, FAO (http://APO.af/gnvODA) said, the region had the highest rate of overfishing with 54% of all analysed fish overexploited.
More information about illegal fishing in the region here: Assessing the Effectiveness of Monitoring Control and Surveillance of Illegal Fishing (http://APO.af/eV3b6P) and here: The Case of West Africa (http://APO.af/eV3b6P).
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Greenpeace.
Notes for editors:
Photos and footage available at: http://act.gp/2miRN9f.
Please also find a Greenpeace briefing here (http://APO.af/mbm1Vl).
● Contact onboard the Esperanza: Pavel Klinckhamers, project leader, Greenpeace Netherlands, PKlinckh@Greenpeace.org, +31 107130874
● International media enquiries: Christina Koll, communications coordinator, Greenpeace Nordic, CKoll@Greenpeace.org, +45 28109021
● African media enquiries: Bakary Coulibaly, communications officer, Greenpeace Africa, Senegal office, BKouliba@Greenpeace.org, +221 773336265
● Chinese media enquiries: Tengfei Xu, communications officer, Greenpeace East Asia Beijing Office, Xu.Tengfei@Greenpeace.org, +86 186-0127-7872
Details of the vessels encountered:
Yi Feng 8: 45 meter long demersal trawler, weight 247 GT, owned by Yi Feng Aquatic Products Company - a company based in Dalian, China. Yi Feng 8 is registered under the local company in Guinea Bissau called Guiespa Pesca Lda.
Flipper 4 and Saly Reefer: 62 meter long stern trawler, boarded while actively engaged in transshipping its catch to the 91 meter long 1815 ton Saly Reefer. Both vessels fly the flag of Comores, owned by Sea Group SL based in Las Palmas, Spain. Before Greenpeace and FISCAP boarded the vessels, two other vessels of the same company, Flipper 3 and Flipper 5 were documented doing transshipment with the Saly Reefer. These fishing vessels turned off their AIS signal whilst being alongside the Reefer vessel. Catch that has been recorded from these vessels include pelagic fish like sardines, sardinella, horse mackerel and blue mackerel.
The Chang Yuan Yu 5: 45 meter long stern trawler fishing for demersal and pelagic fish, weights 322 GT, owned by Dalian Chang Hai Pelagic Fishery Company, a company based in Dalian, China.