Coast Guard Cutter Legare helps Sierra Leone nab vessel fishing illegally

USCGC LEGARE, At Sea – Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Legare, along with representatives from Sierra Leone’s Armed Forces Maritime Wing, Fisheries Ministry and the Office of National Security conducted a joint boarding operation on a Taiwanese flagged fishing vessel suspected of fishing illegally off the coast of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Aug. 17.

The crew of the fishing vessel, Yu Feng, was found without a license to fish within Sierra Leone’s exclusive economic zone EEZ and lacked a government observer or any crew members from Sierra Leone.

A boarding team consisting of Legare crewmembers and representatives from the Sierra Leone Maritime Wing and Fisheries Ministry stayed aboard the vessel while it was escorted by the Legare to Freetown, where Maritime Wing members took the crew of the Yu Feng into custody.

“This is a big catch for us,” said Sierra Leone Armed Forces Lt. Augustine Bengeh, executive officer of the Maritime Wing Base in Murray Town, Sierra Leone. “It’s a dream come true for us to be able to come this far out to sea and conduct these missions, and in this case should yield a lot of dividends for the country and the Joint Maritime Committee.”

The crew of Yu Fengis now subject to both legal proceedings and monetary fines according to the laws of Sierra Leone. They will also be required to acquire a license, hire crew members from Sierra Leone and embark a government observer if the wish to continue fishing within the EEZ.

The joint law enforcement patrol with Sierra Leone is another in a series of missions conducted with a U.S. 6th Fleet ship and and African nation. In 2008, two other 6th Fleet ships conducted similar patrols in West and Central Africa, with the objective of providing a platform for African maritime forces to actively enforce their laws within their territorial waters.

Many African nations rely on fishing as a significant contributor of revenue and jobs to the local economy. Some reports have shown Africa loses upwards of $1 billion USD each year to illegal fishing.

Legare, homeported in Portsmouth, Va., is currently on a three month deployment as part of Africa Partnership Station APS. APS is an international initiative led by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet. The initiative is aimed at improving maritime safety and security for the continent of Africa through training and other collaborative activities with African partner countries.

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