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22 January 2014

South Africa requests INTERPOL Notices for vessels suspected of illegal fishing and crew abuse

LYON, France – South Africa has requested INTERPOL Purple Notices in order to locate two vessels whose operators are suspected of illegal fishing and of subjecting their crews to labour and human rights abuses.

The two fishing vessels, Samudera Pasific No 8 and Berkat Menjala No 23, were among a fleet of 10 arrested by the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) in November 2013 on suspicion of various fishing offences and fraudulently sharing the same fishing license.

A total of 75 crew members were evacuated from the vessels, where they had been forced to work and live in substandard, unsafe and unhygienic conditions, and had not been paid for several months. It was also discovered that the vessels held fake registration documents.

The South African DAFF believes the two stateless vessels fled the port of Cape Town on 29 December to avoid further investigation. The authorities requested the INTERPOL Purple Notices to warn other countries of the potential threat posed to the safety and security of the persons on board, in addition to a pollution risk to the marine and coastal environment. The vessels are likely to have changed their flags, names and other identifiers.

“Through INTERPOL we ask the global law enforcement community to assist our investigation into the disturbing activities associated with these vessels, and to help put an end to lawlessness and duplicity at sea,” said Mr Mtoba, Chief Director, Monitoring, Control and Surveillance of DAFF and the leader of the capacity building and advocacy project of INTERPOL’s Fisheries Crime Working Group.

“The activities of these vessels are not only a threat to marine living resources, but also to the safety and wellbeing of the fishing crews on board,” added Mr Mtoba.

INTERPOL’s Purple Notices are used to seek or provide information on modi operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.

“South Africa’s request shows the commitment of our member countries to use INTERPOL’s global tools and services effectively in their efforts to suppress fisheries crime,” said David Higgins, head of INTERPOL’s Environmental Security unit.

“The leadership shown by South Africa in this investigation is very welcome and we will continue to work closely with their authorities, all member countries and organizations working to combat this type of crime,” added Mr Higgins, recognizing the ongoing communication with the Secretariat of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission is the intergovernmental organization responsible for managing tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas, including the promotion of compliance with conservation and management measures.

By using Purple Notices to compile and share information about illegal fishing vessels, INTERPOL aims to foster increased monitoring of the highly mobile and elusive illegal fishing operators; encourage collaborative international action against illegal fishing; and improve the enforcement of fisheries regulations by supporting compliance measures taken by national fisheries authorities and regional fisheries management organizations.