Tian yu 6 seen from the Tian Yu 52 illegal fishing vessel in the waters of Benin. By Leon Greiner/Sea Shepherd. 

On December 8th armed Beninese Navy sailors worked with Sea Shepherd crew to covertly apprehend and arrest four industrial trawlers fishing illegally in the waters of Benin, a country in West Africa.

Beninese navy sailor giving commandsA Beninese Navy Sailor places an illegal fishing vessel under arrest. By Leon Greiner/Sea Shepherd.

The fishing vessels Fada 10, Tian Yu 5, Tian Yu 6 and Tian Yu 8 were busted when the ship’s radar of the Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker caught them fishing inside a special management area reserved for local artisanal fishermen that extends up to five nautical miles from the coast of Benin. The trawlers were fishing so close to the coast that their lights could be seen from shore.

Crew member filming the Fada 3A Sea Shepherd small boat approaches one of the illegal fishing vessels. By Leon Greiner/Sea Shepherd.

The three Tian Yu vessels were also intercepted fishing inside the Bouche du Roi ecological reserve. The reserve consists of mangroves and lagoons critical to fish nurseries and is part of the MAB UNESCO-listed Mono Biosphere Reserve, home to nearly 2 million people in Benin and Togo, and particularly rich in biodiversity as it is positioned in a wildlife corridor frequented by migrating tuna and humpback whales.

All four trawlers were escorted to the port of Cotonou for detention.

Coast guard on aft deck of illegal fishing vesselA Beninese Navy Sailor on the aft deck of one of the arrested illegal fishing vessels. By Leon Greiner/Sea Shepherd.

The successful arrests occurred after the Bob Barker returned to Beninese waters to conduct joint at-sea patrols between the Benin Navy and Sea Shepherd under the leadership of Navy Captain F. M. Ahoyo, the Maritime Commissioner of Benin.

Coast guard watching boardingA Beninese Navy Sailor prepares to board one of the illegal fishing vessels. By Leon Greiner/Sea Shepherd.

Earlier this year, the government of Benin partnered with Sea Shepherd for Operation Guegou (local Wxla language for “Big Tuna”) to tackle illegal fishing in the Gulf of Guinea, with Sea Shepherd crew and local nongovernmental organization (NGO) Eco-Benin working together with law enforcement agents representing the State Action on the Sea, the Navy of Benin and the Ministry of Fisheries on board the Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker to stop poaching activity. 

Captain of illegal fishing vessel exits the bridgeThe Captain of an illegal fishing vessel exits the bridge of his vessel as the Beninese Navy conducts their inspection of the vessel. By Leon Greiner/Sea Shepherd.

Sea Shepherd’s partnership with Benin marked the fourth government in the Gulf of Guinea to join a growing effort to stop illegal fishing in the region through joint at-sea patrols.

Fada 10 approach with small boatCaptain Anteo Broadfield observes the inspection of the ‘Fada 10’. By Leon Greiner/Sea Shepherd.

Since 2016, Sea Shepherd has also been working in partnership with the governments of Gabon, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tanzania, Namibia and The Gambia to combat fisheries crime by providing the use of civilian offshore patrol vessels to Africa.

Read more about Sea Shepherd’s campaigns to stop illegal fishing

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