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F/V Premier - another IUU vessel involved in illegal fishing and fraud in Liberia

Following the exposure of its alleged illegal fishing activities in the Stop Illegal Fishing article Illegal fishing in West Africa which was published last year, evidence later confirmed that the tuna purse seiner F/V Premier was fishing illegally in Liberian waters. The South Korean tuna purse seiner had been identified in Liberian waters in late 2011 and mid-2012.

In December 2012, upon receipt of information regarding the vessel's intent to enter port in Mauritius, the Bureau of National Fisheries (BNF) in Liberia sent an official request to the Mauritian government for assistance and inspection of the vessel. The request was granted, an inspection took place, and the Mauritian government forwarded several documents found to the Liberian government, including copies of the vessel catch log, which confirmed the suspicions of illegal fishing in Liberian waters.

During the inspection authorities also found a forged Liberian fishing license, and a document from the Liberian Maritime Authority (LMA), which is yet to be validated. The LMA document lists the name and contact details of the vessels agent in Liberia, an individual previously linked to forged Liberian documents.

Several countries in the Western Indian Ocean have denied a fishing licence to the F/V Premiere due to the on-going IUU case in Liberia.This stance by African countries to stand strong and united in the fight against illegal fishing is an example of the spirit of cooperation across the continent – and the result of improved regional cooperation and intelligence sharing through the FISH-i Africa initiative.

In response to this correct action by these countries, an employee of the owner "Dongwon Industries" has forwarded two letters to the Government of Kenya, supposedly addressed from the Liberian Authorities to the flag State South Korea. The two letters imply that the IUU fishing suspicion was a misunderstanding and they state that F/V Premiere was in fact legally licensed at the time when they were in Liberian waters. These letters have been confirmed by the Bureau of National Fisheries in Liberia to be forged. They will now add more evidence to the on-going IUU fishing and fraud case that the vessel owners and agents are embroiled in.

In January 2011, the Minister of Agriculture in Liberia, the Hon. Florence A. Chenoweth declared a moratorium on large pelagic fisheries that lasted until 1st of April 2011. However, no tuna vessels have been licensed to date by the Liberian Authorities.In addition, all vessels licensed by the BNF are publically available on their website.It is therefore mindboggling to see these letters as well as the approach illegal fishing operators take in order to secure access to valuable tuna resources.

The Dongwon Industries website states that Dongwon Industries opposes and pledges to prevent illegal catches by strictly complying with rules and regulations of the international organisations through the Bycatch Management Guidelines.This pledge obviously does not include compliance with national legislations or violation of RFMO rules and regulations.It may be that the Sun is setting for DongWon’s dream of a fisheries products kingdom which they also list as one of their great ambitions on their website.

Dongwon Industries is the parent company of StarKist.   StarKist is a leading producer, distributor and marketer of seafood products in the United States (http://www.starkist.com/about-starkist/about-dongwon).

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