Vessel Found Fishing Illegally in BIOT Waters

The BIOT Administration, working closely with MRAG, our fisheries adviser and enforcement partner, and with support from the Blue Belt programme, continues to have success in tackling Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in its Marine Protected Area (MPA).

Most recently, the BIOT Patrol Vessel (BPV) has intercepted a Sri Lankan vessel fishing illegally on the Great Chagos Bank on 22 January 2020. The vessel was escorted back to Diego Garcia by the BPV and the police investigation and full catch documentation conducted. This resulted in a final court hearing on 25 January 2020, at which the Master pleaded guilty to charges of illegal fishing and being in possession of illegal fishing gear. He was subsequently fined £10,000 for illegal fishing, £7,500 for possession of the illegal gear, and £100 court costs by the Magistrate. All illegal gear was confiscated and destroyed.

The catch found on board the vessel was mainly comprised of sharks, including species declared as vulnerable by the IUCN, such as silvertip and silky sharks, and two critical species, the whitetip reef and scalloped hammerhead sharks. Also found were multiple species of reef fish and tuna, including bigeye (also listed as Vulnerable), skipjack and dogtooth, which will be reported to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). The catch was destroyed following an order from the Magistrate.

IUU fishing is a major threat to the health and sustainability of the marine ecosystem in the BIOT, causing severe damage to vulnerable habitats and species, with ecological, social and economic repercussions potentially felt throughout the Indian Ocean region. The BIOT Administration is committed to tackling IUU fishing and will continue to cooperate with Sri Lankan authorities to take action against this vessel, as well as collaborating more widely through the IOTC to reduce the drivers of IUU fishing in the region.