Seychelles-US joint coast guard operation catches illegal fishing vessel with dolphin meat

A local vessel, with prohibited catch onboard, was apprehended in the waters of Seychelles during a joint maritime operation by the Seychelles Coast Guard and their United States counterpart.

On March 20, the team involved in the operation boarded the fishing vessel Fishfinder, which was not showing up on vessel monitoring system (VMS), in the vicinity of Denis Island, where it was conducting fishing activities.

Following a thorough search onboard the vessel, 19 gunny bags of suspected dolphin meat were discovered - a species that is banned from fishing in Seychelles. The vessel and the crew were apprehended and escorted back to Mahe and the confiscated items were handed over to the relevant authorities.

According to a press release from the police, the crew of the vessel comprised six Sri Lankan nationals. An investigation is ongoing on the matter.

The two-week bilateral maritime operation between the two coast guards is a result of the bilateral agreement to counter-illicit transnational maritime activity operations signed in July 2021 by the U.S. and Seychelles governments.

The agreement provided the authority for joint ship rider law enforcement and counter Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) proliferation operations.

The Chief of the Defence Forces, Brigadier Michael Rosette, told SNA that "through the agreement, we get to train with the U.S. Coast Guard, which is a very experienced coast guard and have a lot of personnel experienced in different fields in regards to security at sea."

He said that "the exercise itself was a fruitful one as the coast guard and special force officers used it as a training phase, and at the same time, it became a deterrent for other vessels to carry out illegal activities as they know that from time to time we have a presence at sea."

Rosette explained that right after the signing of the agreement, due to events that unfolded, the U.S. Coast Guard was unable to join its Seychelles counterpart for training.

"We took advantage of the fact that Cutlass Express was taking place in Mauritius, where the US Coast Guard was taking part. Once they complete the training they came here," said Rosette.

The U.S. Ambassador for Seychelles, Henry Jardine, who was present for the closing ceremony of the operation shared that "joint operations like the one our combined team just completed are essential to ensuring the global good that maritime security provides."

"This patrol served to help secure Seychelles's 1.4 million square kilometres of Exclusive Economic Zone. Narcotics trafficking, human smuggling, and illegal fishing are all threats to our collective safety and prosperity. Efforts like this operation are essential to combat these threats, together. We look forward to our continued collaboration in this arena to achieve this mutual goal," said Jardine.

The Seychelles Defence Forces receive a second video downlink system.

Furthermore, at a small ceremony on Thursday morning at the Seychelles Air Force base at Pointe Larue, the U.S. government handed over a second Microwave Video Downlink system (MVDS) to the Seychelles Air Force.

This system enables aircraft to transmit live video and data to personnel on the ground in real-time via a reliable and secure connection. It has been effectively used by the force in a variety of military applications such as anti-narcotic operations, boarding of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) vessels, and search and rescue, to name a few.

Source: Seychelles News Agency