Another Chinese Vessel Arrested In Ghana
Days after a suspicious Chinese vessel was arrested by Nigerian authorities, another fishing vessel Lu Rong Yuan Yu 956 has been detained on the same illegal fishing charges it faced a year ago, according to the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF). In 2019, the vessel’s operators were issued with a fine for using under-size mesh nets and taking fish below minimum landing size: despite refusing to pay, the vessel had its licence renewed. Last month, Ghana’s Marine Police apprehended it again under almost identical charges, EJF reported.
“This blatant disregard for the law is enabled by a lack of deterrent sanctions and the decision – taken by government officials in the full knowledge of these crimes – to re-licence the vessel before the fine was paid,” said EJF in a statement. “If the government does not crack down on these practices it will endanger the livelihoods and food security of millions of Ghanaians.”
The Lu Rong Yuan Yu 956 was initially apprehended in June 2019 for using nets with a mesh size below the legal minimum and taking fish smaller than legal landing size. The vessel operators had failed to declare the catches at port, EJF said.
In October 2019, the owners were issued with a fine of $1 million by an out-of-court settlement committee, plus an additional $21,000 for the fish on board the vessel. However, the owners refused to pay the fine and the case returned to court. Despite this, the vessel licence was renewed, and the trawler put to sea again, fishing in the waters of both Ghana and neighboring Cote d’Ivoire.
On May 20, 2020, the Marine Police apprehended the vessel again, and again the charges brought were nets with a mesh size below the legal limit and under-sized fish. The Lu Rong Yuan Yu 956, which is operated by the Chinese company Rongcheng Ocean Fishery Co Ltd, will be detained until June 16, 2020, when the case is due to come before court, EJF said.
“It is vital to ensure that the vessel pays the full fines of both cases, and that the outcome of this and other cases are published on the ministry’s website. Perpetrators cannot simply choose not to pay a fine and go back to exactly the same criminal actions as before. That is not how justice works. To safeguard Ghana’s food security, livelihoods and stability, the government must act to tackle this issue across the whole fleet,” said EJF’s Executive Director Steve Trent.
The use of under-size nets is often associated with the damaging practice of “saiko.” Once caught, they transfer the catch at sea to specially adapted boats and sell this stolen fish back to local communities at a profit.
According to a recent report from the Overseas Development Institute, Ghana’s flag registry is home to 137 Chinese distant-water fishing vessels – more than any other nation. The strong Chinese participation in the sector exists in spite of a Ghanain ban on foreign investment in the industrial trawl fleet; EJF alleges that Chinese firms work through local front companies to circumvent this restriction.