Source: Stop Illegal Fishing
Author: Isani Cayetano
A shipping vessel tonight remains in the custody of the government of the African country of Somalia for illegal fishing activities. But what does the detention have to do with Belize? Well, the Geko 1 was detained while flying the Belize flag which means that it is registered in Belize and the incident can potentially give the local registry a black eye. The vessel which is owned by a Greek company was recently seized with a cargo of approximately thirty tons of high value fish harvested in Somali waters. Aside from breaking international fishing laws, the vessel is also suspected of using a fraudulent Somali license. The state-run registry, IMMARBE, is attempting to clear up the mess with authorities in the African continent. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
llegal fishing, aside from piracy, remains a primary concern for maritime law enforcement globally. In Belizean waters, there have been numerous reports of Guatemalan fishermen unlawfully harvesting our marine resources. Oddly enough, the shoe is on the other foot, except that it involves a Greek-owned vessel and a crew of men who have never set foot on Belizean soil or sailed our high seas. The Greko 1, a trawler operating illegally within Somali waters, flies the Belizean standard, after receiving permission from the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize two years ago. Tonight, it is grounded in Mombasa, the chief seaport of Kenya.
Valerie Lanza, Director, High Seas Fisheries –
“It was recently detained by Somali government because it was suspected of engaging in illegal activities within Somali jurisdiction. So the Somali government contacted us and we have been in communication with them, as well as the government of Mombasa in regards to the allegations that were made of illegal fishing. Some of the allegations that were made, for us, were questionable considering the economic situation in Somalia. But we have worked with the owners, we have worked with the Mombasa government, with the Somali government and at present we have come to a resolution of the allegations.”
So how does a watercraft owned by a Greek company, registered with IMMARBE and permitted to fly the Belizean flag, end up in custody off the coast of Africa?
Valerie Lanza –
“The vessel has been registered with us since 2014. It has been operating in Somali waters under license from the Somali government for that time and what we believed happened was that in 2014, the Somalis revised their fisheries law and certain legislations were changed in regards to what type of foreign-owned vessel can operate in their jurisdiction. The Greko 1 unfortunately, was one of those vessels that were, their fishing gears were prohibited from operating within that area and it came under investigation by Somali government. The Somali government basically told us that the licenses that they had given back in 2014 to this vessel was fraudulent. So there was a lot of back and forth communication with the Somali government regarding these so-called fraudulent permits that were given by their administration.”
During that time however, Greko 1 fled from Mogadishu and subsequent bulletins were issued to countries within the region, including Kenya, Madagascar and Mozambique. Those countries all closed their ports to the fugitive vessel.
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