Sea Shepherd Calls on US to Investigate Sustainability Claims of Shrimping Fleet

Tuesday, 30 May, 2017

Sea Shepherd Global has formally requested that the U.S. Department of State (DOS) investigate “sustainable” shrimp fisheries in Nigeria after discovering the absence of the required turtle excluder device (TED) on a recently-arrested trawler in Liberia. 

Sea Shepherd Global has formally requested that the U.S. Department of State (DOS) investigate “sustainable” shrimp fisheries in Nigeria.  Known as the “Section 609” certification process, this program extends turtle excluder device (TED) requirements to vessels of nations importing shrimp to the United States.  TEDs are grates attached to the mouths of shrimp trawl nets that keep sea turtles and other marine life out of the nets.  Given that the United States is the world’s largest single importer of shrimp, the Section 609 program serves as a critical tool in the protection of sea turtles (and other marine life) around the world. 

As a significant importer of shrimp to the United States, Nigeria enjoys the economic benefits of its favorable Section 609 certification.  However, evidence uncovered by Sea Shepherd Global of illegal shrimp fishing by a Nigerian-flagged vessel calls that certification into serious doubt.  For several months now, Sea Shepherd Global has been conducting “Operation Sola Stella” –  a campaign in cooperation with the Liberian Ministry of National Defense, designed to combat illegal fishing in Liberia’s heavily-poached waters.  The campaign’s objective is to enhance Liberia’s enforcement capacity by providing Liberia with a Sea Shepherd vessel (the M/Y Bob Barker) carrying a team of Liberian Coastguard sailors.

These two guitar fish discovered on the Star Shrimper XXV would have been saved by TEDs.

On March 13, 2017, Liberian officers working in connection with Operation Sola Stella arrested and detained the Star Shrimper XXV in Liberian waters on suspicion of illegal fishing.  The vessel was found trawling for shrimp without a TED in waters known to contain leatherback sea turtles.  Star Shrimper XXV is a member of a massive fleet of 70 Nigerian shrimping vessels owned by Atlantic Shrimpers Limited (“Atlantic Shrimpers”).  This company proudly advertises its alleged “sustainable” practices, including the ability to market shrimp to the United States by virtue of Nigeria’s Section 609 certification.

Sea Shepherd Global strongly suspects that the Star Shrimper XXV’s illegal shrimping is not an isolated incident – especially given the size of the fleet.  To convince the U.S. State Department to open a formal investigation, Sea Shepherd Global submitted detailed briefing and evidence concerning the Star Shrimper XXV’s illegal activities.  In its submission, Sea Shepherd Global urges U.S. authorities to “see this incident as an ominous red flag, calling into question the entire [Atlantic Shrimpers] fleet.”  


Liberian Coast Guard officer with Operation Sola Stella approaching the Nigerian vessel, Star Shrimper XXV. Photo by Alejandra Gimeno/Sea Shepherd.
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