Gabon : the Fight against illegal fisheries

Photography : Jérômine DERIGNY     Texts : Cécile BONTRON    

Sea Shepherd gives to Gabonese and Santomean fishery inspectors during the tuna season (April to end of September) his boat, the old icebreaker, the Bob Barker, his two zodiacs, his fuel oil and his crew.
The mission tracks down any fishing vessel that travels through the exclusive economic zone of Gabon or Sao Tome and Principe.
Until two years ago, the lack of equipment in the Gabonese Directorate-General for Fisheries prevented them from moving away from the coast to control foreign fishing vessels operating in their exclusive economic zone.
The captain briefs the team of animal activists, military soldiers and fisheries inspectors before a boarding.
Everyone is on deck to put the zodiacs in the water, and set off to board the fishing boats.
The presence of the soldiers ensures that boardings are carried out. Soldiers invest the ships and secure them before the inspectors arrive.
The teams from Operation Albacore are leaving to board a sighted ship.
Large European fishing vessels have already been flagged for abuse of licence. Tuna vessels are suspected of exceeding their quotas.
The soldiers are the first to board the boat, then they put it under control.
The soldiers put the inspected boat under control.
Sea Shepherd activists document the entire boarding.
Only three industrial fishing companies are based in Gabon and own trawlers, two Chinese and one Italian.
All trawlers in the Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe EEZ are floating trash.
Sea Shepherd members are preparing to control a fishing vessel.
The teams' call to warn Chinese trawlers remains a dead letter. The boarding is by force.
One by one, the soldiers hoist themselves on board, securing the deck, the bridge, the cabins
The soldiers secures and puts the inspected boat under control.
The soldiers ensure that all crew members have been identified and assembled behind the boat.
All the sailors are identified and gathered to make way for the crew of a second zodiac, the fishery inspectors and activists of Sea Shepherd, translator, biologist, documentary filmmakers.
Turtles or juveniles are "bycatch"and are not marketable. However, the workers have already sorted out baby captains, in the right-hand box, ready to supply the Chinese and Gabonese market.
One of the two turtles caught in the net swallowed a plastic rope that runs through his entire body.
The injured turtle is transported to the zodiac for treatment in an animal clinic.
Incidental catches can represent between 10% and 50% of a net run with species that are simply not of interest to boat owners, such as endangered species or juveniles who must ensure the reproduction of their species..
A Sea Shepherd volunteer observes the catches that just fell from the nets. She takes care of the turtle
Sea Shepherd activists save a baby shark that should not have been caught.
The soldiers are going down to the cold rooms.
On the garbage ships, the cold rooms are in dire need of hygiene.
In the holds, inspectors find juveniles (here Dentex) ready to be marketed when they should not even be fished.
A sailor enters the cold room.
Workers work 24 hours a day with less than one hour of break every three hours or so.
If the owner is Italian, with a branch of his company based in Gabon, the crew comes from West Africa: Senegal or Côte d' Ivoire.
Chinese companies employ only Chinese or Indonesian workers, who do not speak the same language.
Workers sort and store fish in crates before they are sent to the holds.
End of boat control, the team's going back to the Bob Barker.