By Amanda Cabrejo le Roux
3 November 2015
(The Conversation) – A court in São Tomé and Príncipe, a small oceanic island off the African west coast, recently delivered an historical verdict in the fight against the transnational criminal syndicates involved in fisheries crime.
The court convicted the Chilean captain and two Spanish officials of the Thunder, a Nigerian-flagged vessel considered to be one of the world’s worst illegal fishing ships. They were sentenced to spend up to three years in jail and to pay a fine of approximately 15 million euros. The charges related to recklessness, forgery, pollution and damage to the environment.
The judicial outcome is a major victory even if the charges reflected only part of the illegal activities attributed to the Thunder. This is the second-most high-profile case of fisheries crime in history after the 2013 Bengis case involving the massive poaching of South African rock lobster.
The process to arrest the Thunder involved a host of countries and global agencies as well as NGOs. The Thunder was tracked by various countries. There was a wide transnational co-operative effort led by Interpol.
But the main player of the dramatic finale of the Thunder case was the non-governmental organisation Sea Shepherd. Sea Shepherd chased the vessel for 110 days over 10,000 miles from Antarctica to the Gulf of Guinea. This was where the Thunder sank, presumably intentionally to destroy evidence.
This landmark case reveals some of the many challenges in the fight against fisheries crime. […]
Many experts share the opinion that the tools to combat the problem are there. But a lack of commitment by many states is the main challenge. For many governments, fisheries crime is not a political priority. [more]