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Panofi Company Limited has settled with Liberia – but what next?

In early January this year, Stop Illegal Fishing published a report about a tuna purse seiner (F/V PANOFI DISCOVERER) and two reefers (M/V VOLTA VICTORY and M/V VOLTA GLORY) owned by Panofi Company Limited, that were found fishing without a license and illegally trans-shipping fish within Liberian waters respectively. The report stated that the Liberian Government and Panofi Company Limited had reached a settlement agreement of USD 500 000 for the three vessels but that payment had not yet been received by the Liberian Authorities.

On the 9 April 2013, Stop Illegal Fishing received correspondence and a press release from a representative of Panofi Company Limited stating that the Ghanaian company would like to correct information contained in the Stop Illegal Fishing article written in early January 2013 (see press release at end of this article) in order to confirm payment as agreed in settlement agreement.

The Liberian Bureau of National Fisheries has confirmed to Stop Illegal Fishing that the payment of USD 500 000 has been received from Panofi Company Limited as agreed.

Stop Illegal Fishing has been informed that following payment of the Liberian settlement fines for the above case, Panofi Company Limited has applied through a local agent for licenses to fish for six of its purse seiners. The extensive presence of the two VOLTA reefers in Liberian waters in 2011 and 2012 potentially indicates fishing activities by more than one purse seiner. Therefore, the Liberian Bureau of National Fisheries has requested that the company provide documentation (including catch logs, VMS tracks, and catch certificates) to prove that the five vessels not covered by the previous settlement agreement were not fishing or transhipping illegally in Liberia during the period in question.

To date, it is reported that Panofi Company Limited has not cooperated with this requirement despite a Liberian mission to Ghana to inspect the vessels.

Information from the flag State Ghana informs that the country’s VMS was not operational during 2011 and 2012 as a result; the fishing activities of the PANOFI Company Limited vessels during this time remain unclear.

The full Press Release received from Panofi Company Limited is published in its entirety below:

Panofi Refutes Allegations of Failure to Pay Fines Imposed by Liberian Government

Tema, Ghana (March 28, 2013) – Panofi Company Limited a Ghanaian fishing company operating under Ghanaian flagged vessels has refuted allegations contained in a publication on January 1, 2013 by Stop Illegal fishing’s website (www.stopillegalfishing.com) that despite fines imposed by the Liberian Government for illegally fishing in Liberian waters, it has failed to pay such fines.

This press release serves to rebut such allegations and to state categorically that on December 27, 2012 Panofi Company Limited paid a fine in the amount of Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (USD500,000.00) pursuant to Settlement Agreement reached on December 19, 2012 between the Bureau of National Fisheries of the Liberian Government and Panofi Company Limited. This followed a finding for violations of the Liberian Fisheries regulations in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Liberia relating to unlicensed activities carried on by the Panofi owned purse seine vessels.

Despite our compliance some groups of persons are persistently creating erroneous impression that Panofi Company Limited has failed to abide by the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

Panofi Company Limited as a Ghanaian company has invested substantially in the tuna industry in Ghana and in accordance with its corporate values, endeavours at all times to abide by the international and national rules and regulations for fishing. It continues to repose confidence in the tuna industry and advocates for sustainable fishing activities. This unfortunate turn of events is deeply regretted.

Photo by P. E. Bergh - Port of Tema, Ghana

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