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Interpol-wanted F/V Thunder sinks in the Gulf of Guinea after a 110-day maritime pursuit by Sea Shepherd. Photo courtesy of Sea Shepherd.

Regulation

The Spanish government has announced that six Spanish nationals and six Spanish companies involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Southern Ocean have been fined a combined total of more than €5.2 million euros by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and the Environment (MAPAMA).

The fines are the result of Operation Sparrow II. The recent penalties dealt by the Spanish government targeted other ‘Galician Mafia’ kingpins, including the owner and operator of the Interpol-wanted F/V Thunder, the most notorious poaching vessel in the world before its captain deliberately sank the vessel in the Gulf of Guinea after a 110-day record-setting maritime pursuit by Sea Shepherd.

The captain, and two of his crew, after being rescued by Sea Shepherd, were sentenced to three years in prison, and fined €15 million euros, by a court in the island state of Sao Tome and Principe in 2015.

In addition to the fines handed down in Spain, the six individuals and six companies are sanctioned from partaking in any fishing activity for the next 5-14 years.

An additional €60 thousand fine was given to an individual who obstructed law enforcement officers during the course of the MAPAMA investigation.

Operation Sparrow II, a continuation of Operation Sparrow, a MAPAMA policing operation targeting Spanish IUU operators, which saw the infamous Vidal Armadores crime syndicate fined more than €17.8 million. The program has enabled Spanish authorities to collect incriminating evidence on the main IUU players in Spain, which can now be used by other jurisdictions internationally; a welcome move as fisheries crime is often transnational in nature. Spain now has the opportunity to show continued leadership by sharing that evidence with other state actors, either bilaterally or through Interpol’s Project Scale, which has shown great efficiency and success in combatting IUU fishing.

“More than two years after my crew and I dogged the F/V Thunder for 110 days, chasing it across 10,000 nautical miles, covering three oceans, before finally ending its career, Spanish authorities have continued to chase those who profited most from its ten-year crime spree. We commend the leadership that Spain is showing in the fight to stop IUU fishing and are proud of our own efforts: both in putting a spotlight on IUU fishing and by securing critical evidence against the F/V Thunder”, said Captain Peter Hammarstedt, who heads Sea Shepherd’s campaigns against IUU fishing in Africa.

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