Gabon’s Fisheries Minister Joins the Bob Barker on Patrol
Friday, 18 Oct, 2019
Gabon’s Minister of Fisheries Biendi Maganga-Moussavou joined the crew of Sea Shepherd’s Bob Barker for the last patrol of the season on Operation Albacore IV, our campaign in partnership with the Gabonese government to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Central West Africa.
Minister Maganga-Moussavou accompanied fisheries inspectors, national park eco-guards and the Gabonese Navy on boardings and inspections at-sea, as they worked alongside Sea Shepherd crew to patrol Gabon’s sovereign waters including the largest network of marine protected areas in Africa.
On board an industrial purse seiner, Minister Maganga-Moussavou saw firsthand the effects of the tuna fisheries on local shark populations. While the target catch of the industrial purse seiners operating in the waters of Gabon is tuna, Gabonese observers have documented that the use of fish aggregation devices (FAD) - essentially floating objects, usually made of plastic and with high-tech sonar and satellite communications equipment, that serve as fish magnets - have resulted in large numbers of dead sharks and juvenile fish.
In one study, the Gabonese fisheries observer program uncovered that the 83.5% of the albacore tuna catch is juvenile (or sexually-immature) fish when fishing on FADs, compared to 10.5% of the catch being juvenile when fishing on free schools of tuna. This means that the impact of the purse seine fishery on fish that have not yet reached reproductive age is eight times greater when using FADs. By-catch of sharks also increases, as sensitive shark species are attracted to the juvenile fish to feed.
The Gabonese are presently considering phasing out FADs all together, making Gabon one of the first countries in the world to do so.
Also on board the Bob Barker was National Geographic explorer-in-residence Dr. Mike Fay, Wildlife Conservation Society conservationist and Advisor to Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba.
Two years ago, the Gabonese President declared the creation of nine new national marine parks and 11 new aquatic reserves at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York, amounting to the largest network of marine protected areas in Africa.
“The presence of a Gabonese cabinet minister on board a Sea Shepherd ship on patrol, shows the commitment of the government of Gabon to not just rest on the laurels of past conservation successes, but to instead continue making conservation history. Sea Shepherd thanks Minister Maganga-Moussavou for his leadership in joining his fisheries inspectors on the frontlines of conservation as Gabon continues to be both a regional and global leader in fisheries management."Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns for Sea Shepherd Global.
In September, armed Gabonese law enforcement agents who were working on board the Bob Barker stormed the Congolese-flagged Tchilassi in a nighttime raid as it illegally set its purse seine fishing net in the protected waters of Mayumba National Park on the border between Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville; and in July, a Chinese-flagged trawler named Haixin 27 was arrested in the Grand Sud du Gabon Aquatic Reserve.
Operation Albacore IV concludes with the departure of the Bob Barker from Gabonese waters but Sea Shepherd is committed to continue working with Gabon and other regional partners to continue to defend, conserve and protect the Gulf of Guinea from illegal and destructive fishing practices. In the wake of Operation Albacore IV, several trawlers have been arrested and brought to justice, legal frameworks to protect the oceans have been bolstered, countless marine creatures have been saved and Africa’s largest network of marine protected areas continues to be defended.