IUU listed vessel under arrest in Indonesia after fleeing the Western Indian Ocean

By Stop Illegal Fishing:9th Apr, 2018: FISH-i Africa

Authorities in Indonesia have arrested a known toothfish-poaching vessel, the STS-50, following a united regional response including weeks of satellite tracking and monitoring by the FISH-i Africa Task Force.

With a string of previous names and flag states, the STS-50 was listed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) as an IUU vessel in 2016. It became the subject of an INTERPOL Purple Notice following the seizure by Chinese authorities of its catch of Antarctic toothfish which it attempted to offload in a Chinese port. The vessel has also, in the past, used forged Greek documentation to obtain registration documents in Togo.

In February 2018, inspectors from Madagascar alerted the FISH-i Africa Task Force to the presence of the vessel in the region along with details of its new identity. Previously known as ANDREY DOLGOV, AYDA and SEA BREEZ 1, the STS-50 had presented false information to officials as it called at Port d’Ehola in southern Madagascar.

The STS-50 was tracked as it headed into Mozambican waters where it was intercepted and inspected by a Mozambican multi agency team. Having failed to ask for permission to enter the Mozambican EEZ, the STS-50 was detained. The crew’s passports were held and inspections continued, revealing forged documents as well as gillnets, illegal in the CCAMLR region. Although low on fuel, water and food for the crew, the STS-50 absconded from its detention outside Maputo on March 17th, leaving the passports of the 20 Indonesian crew-members and 15 Russian officers behind.

With all FISH-i members on high alert, the STS-50 attempted to evade tracking by periodically switching off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) and using a generic MMSI number to avoid identification. Trygg Mat Tracking, who provide specialist vessel tracking analysis as part of the FISH-i Africa Task Force, were able to supply regular updates that ensured that the STS-50 could be intercepted when the opportunity arose.

The Sea Shepherd’s patrol vessel OCEAN WARRIOR, which is currently patrolling in the Tanzania EEZ for Operation Jodari, a cooperation with the Deep Sea Fishing Authority, Tanzanian Navy and the Multi-Agency Task Team (MATT) supported by FISH-i Africa, intercepted and followed the STS-50 but were thwarted by a lack of jurisdiction and shortage of fuel. However, they were able to provide valuable information and photos to a number of cooperating organisations..

“The arrest of this high profile vessel demonstrates the real value of cooperation at a regional and international level,” stated Per Erik Bergh of Stop Illegal Fishing. “We are delighted to see how effective the FISH-i Africa Task Force is when its members pool resources and collaborate against rogue vessels. To have this backed up by enforcement action from Indonesia on the other side of the Indian Ocean is a significant development. This is showing illegal operators everywhere that they can no longer get away with switching identities and switching regions.”

“We are also grateful for the collaboration from the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centres in Madagascar and Singapore who have played a crucial role in coordinating both information and action on the STS-50,” added Bergh.

“The trans Indian Ocean chase and subsequent arrest of the STS-50 demonstrates what is possible when governments, law enforcement and civil society work together to combat IUU fishing,” said Peter Hammarstedt of Sea Shepherd.

This is truly a showcase where a number of organisations pulled together and shared information – including FISH-i Africa, the West Africa Task Force, Maritime Information Fusion Centres in Madagascar and Singapore, INTERPOL, Sea Shepherd and the government of Indonesia.

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