Every day hundreds of unlicensed fishing vessels enter African waters and trawl for shrimp, sardines, tuna, and mackerel. According to a study commissioned by the UK’s aid agency, such trawlers are costing Africa some 1$ bn every year. But illegal fishing “is not just an African problem,” says Arona Soumate, the West African conservation director for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Many countries, even developed states with substantial marine security forces, struggle to keep unlicensed fishing vessels from their waters.

Private Fisheries Protection

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), nations have been granted considerable exclusive rights to the marine resources within a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) along their coastlines. In many cases however the ability of a state to extend the rule of law throughout this massive jurisdiction has been limited.

Sea Patrols

Once a fishing vessel is spotted, the mothership would hail it via open channel radio communication; inform the captain that they had been spotted by government fisheries ship, and that they should prepare to be boarded by a fisheries inspection team. Once on board, the public-private boarding team would ascertain whether the ship was licensed and then document the location of the ship in the client’s territorial waters via a global positioning system.

The use of small, rigid inflatable boats (RIBS) manned by Secure Shipping International acting as fisheries protection officers to approach and board fishing trawlers. These private security personnel would also be accompanied by one or two government officials to oversee the boarding operation, enforce the law, and administer any potential fines or even arrests.