The MAGRAMA initiates proceedings against the Vikings and Seabull ships in its operation against illegal fishing

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The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment (MAGRAMA) has initiated a file to debug responsibilities in connection with the participation of Spanish natural and legal persons in the ownership, management and operation of the Viking and Seabull 22 vessels identified as being involved in actions illegal fishing. This initiative is part of Operation Sparrow 2 against actions of this nature and highlights the policy of zero tolerance that Spain has applied to fight these practices.

The aforementioned record is derived from inspections, prior judicial authorization, in the course of the so-called Operation Sparrow 2, for the inspection services of the General Secretariat of Fisheries at the headquarters of several companies in the provinces of A Coruña and Pontevedra, the 28th, 29th and 30th July 2015. During these inspections abundant documentation was obtained (surpassing the 10.000 documents), whose analysis suggested the existence of a business network, allegedly aimed at concealing the Spanish authorities the ownership, management and exploitation of the above vessels.

With the opening of this file, the Ministry continues the path marked with Operation Sparrow, which led to disciplinary proceedings for which penalties were imposed for more than 16 million euros and disqualifications of fishing activities between 5 and 23 years. It also meant the prohibition on obtaining subsidies and public aid for periods ranging between 5 and 26 years, linking Spanish natural and legal persons with Kunlun, Yongding, Songhua and Tiantai ships.

It should be noted that Community law expressly prohibits nationals of Member States provide any assistance to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, or benefit directly or indirectly from the activity of the vessels included in the lists Community of this type of fishing.

Legal reinforcement

To combat such practices was key regulatory changes made by Law 33/2014, which reinforces the powers of the Ministry in the fight against illegal fishing, to allow outside inspections of ships and fishing facilities strictly character after obtaining court approval, when it was appropriate.

Law 3/2001 of 26th March, the State Marine Fisheries, as amended in this legislature by law 33/2014, defines as a very serious offense, participation in the operation, management and ownership of stateless vessels or vessels third countries identified by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and other international organizations.

This legislation provides penalties between 60,001 and 600,000 €, as well as the disqualification of fishing activities, the loss of fishing licenses or prohibition for any government subsidy or support.

Illegal fishing boats

The Viking and Seabull 22 vessels have been idetified by various international bodies such as CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Resources) or SEAFO (Organization South East Atlantic Fisheries) as involved in IUU fishing vessels. For this reason, in 2010 both were included in the Community list of illegal vessels.

In order to hinder the pursuit of their activities, both vessels have habitually been renamed. So the Viking ship has also used the Octopus I, Berber, Snake, Pion, The Bird, Chu Lim Yin Peng, Thor 33, Ulysses, Gale, South Boy or Pisces names, while the Seabull 22 is also known as Itziar II, Carmela, Gold Dragon, Golden Sun, Notre Dame, Mare or Mare Serenitatis.

Declared war on illegal fishing

IUU fishing is one of the greatest threats to sustainable exploitation of living aquatic resources and marine biodiversity.

Reviewing the historical actions of the Spanish Government against illegal fishing, highlight how Operation FLAGS marked the beginning of sanctioning against Anthony and Northern Warrior vessels, still pending, for alleged exploitation as stateless vessels and the use of false documentation to be allowed to enter Spanish ports. All these measures show the determination of Spain to continue to be an international reference in the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated.

This policy of zero tolerance of detection of such practices outside the law applies not only to ships flying the Spanish flag, also related to all activities of their nationals as stateless or flag of third vessels, anywhere in the world.


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