Dongwon Industries has agreed a settlement with the government of Liberia after its vessels were accused of illegal fishing activities in the African nation's waters.
The Liberian Bureau of National Fisheries (BNF) announced that the company paid a total fine of $1 million to $2m for each purse seine vessel involved, the Premier and the Solevant.
Payment of the fine released the vessels of the charges of illegal fishing that included unlicensed fishing activities, undeclared catches and the use of forged Liberian licenses.
The civil law charges of this case are now closed, reports Stop Illegal Fishing.
Sources had previously told Undercurrent that Liberia had leveled a charge of $7m against the South Korean firm, though they expected the final agreement to be significantly lower.
One question that remains, however, is the IUU status of the Premier following this settlement with Liberia.
The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) Resolution states “the flag Contracting Party, and Cooperating non-Contracting Party (CPCs) of the vessels on the record shall ensure that their authorized fishing vessels (AFVs) on the IOTC Record have no history of IUU fishing activities or that, if those vessels have such history, the new owners have provided sufficient evidence demonstrating that the previous owners and operators have no legal, beneficial or financial interest in, or control over those vessels, or that having taken into account all relevant facts, their AFVs are not engaged in or associated with IUU fishing.”
This could mean that based on the text of the settlement agreement with Liberia, in which Dongwon has admitted that the vessel was engaged in IUU fishing, South Korea should remove the Premier from the IOTC list of authorized fishing vessels.
This would mean it was no longer entitled to fish within the IOTC Convention area.
This could be particularly meaningful for South Korea to comply with after the Greens/European Free Alliance, a political group of the EU Parliament, recently proposed that South Korea be added to the EU fishing black-list.
South Korea was also on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) list of 10 countries that have engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The case of the F/V Premier began in 2011 when Stop Illegal Fishing, in cooperation with the Trygg Mat Analytical Unit, found indications that the vessel was fishing illegally in Liberian waters.
This was later confirmed in December 2012 through log book information identified during an inspection by Mauritian authorities in Port Louis.
In March, Undercurrent broke the news that the Dongwon vessel was under investigation, and had apparently been trying to convince other African countries that allegations against it were mistakes, using fraudulent letters.
Following this, the Premier has requested and been refused - due to the unsettled IUU case in Liberia - port access for offloading of fish in the Seychelles and Mauritius, as well as fishing licenses in other Indian Ocean countries.
The F/V Solevant, now registered in the Côte d’Ivoire and operated by Dongwon Industries, was previously named Santa Maria and registered in France.
The vessel was tracked fishing illegally in the Liberian EEZ in February, June, July and September 2012 under its current name, and these offenses are the ones covered by the settlement.
Previously, under the name Santa Maria, the vessel was found carrying a forged Liberian fishing license.
“The Government of Liberia would like to warmly extend its thanks and appreciation to all those Governments and parties who have cooperated and provided assistance in these illegal fishing cases,” said the Liberian BNF.
“In particular the Governments of Mauritius, Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania, Comoros and Mozambique provided invaluable assistance in exercising their port and coastal State duties by denying the F/V PREMIER port services and fishing licenses during the investigation period.”