The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment (MAPAMA) has imposed fines of more than €8 million as a result of the Operation Sparrow 2 investigation, targeting both companies and individuals. As well as the fines, further penalties are prohibitions on involvement in fisheries and on receiving subsidies or state aid.
The investigation goes back to raids carried out over three days in July 2015 on the offices of companies in A Coruña and Pontevedra. According to MAPAMA, the investigation resulted in a large volume of documentation pointing towards the existence of a business network allegedly aimed at concealing from the Spanish authorities the ownership, management and exploitation, of persons of Spanish nationality, relating to illegal fishing vessels Thunder (IMO 6905408) and Tchaw (IMO 6818930).
Both vessels had been identified by various international organisations, including CCAMLR, as vessels involved in IUU fishing. For this reason, in 2010 both were included in the Community list of IUU fishing vessels.
In order to hinder investigations, companies of different nationalities were used, and the vessel names were regularly changed.
Thunder had also used the names Batu I, Raz, Ming No. 5, Wuhan No 4, Kuko, Typhoon, Typhoon-1, Range and Rubin, and had previously been Arctic Ranger and Vesturvon.
Tchaw has also been known as Viking, Rex, Condor, Inca, Blue Swan, Pescamex IV, Pescamex III, Arosa Cuarto and Pescacisne 1.
Thunder sank off the coast of São Tomé and Príncipe in April 2015, and was removed from the Community list of illegal vessels. Tchaw is currently in Vigo with outstanding dues against it, and as it is included in the list of IUU vessels, no port service that would allow it to leave may be provided.
The Spanish authorities have placed sanctions against companies Frigorificos Florindo e Hijos SL, Bacamar SA and Pesquera Piñeiro SL, as well as to eight individuals linked to these companies, totalling €8,261,001, in addition to the companies and individuals being disqualified from engaging in fishing activities for periods of 11 to 12 years, and from receiving state subsidies or aid for periods ranging from 12 to 14 years.
Also as a result of Operation Sparrow 2, a first disciplinary proceeding had already been processed in relation to the connection of Spanish individuals and legal entities with IUU fishing vessels Viking (IMO 8713392) and Seabull 22 (IMO 6803961), which ended with the imposition of fines exceeding €5 million, and disqualifications from engaging in fishing activities for periods ranging from five and 11 years, and the prohibition of receiving subsidies and public aid for periods ranging between five and 12 years.
EU and Spanish law
EU law expressly prohibits nationals of Member States from providing any type of aid to IUU fishing activities, or from directly or indirectly benefiting from the activity of vessels included in the Community list of IUU fishing vessels.
According to MAPAMA, the regulatory change made under Law 33/2014 reinforced the options available to the Spanish authorities in combating IUU fishing, and this has been a vital factor, as it allows for inspections outside of vessels and strictly fishing facilities, with judicial authorisation obtained when appropriate.
MAPAMA states that this activity highlights Spain’s determination to combat IUU fishing via control of its vessels, waters, ports and the import of marine products from third countries, as well as by exercising its jurisdiction over all their nationals who are prohibited from participation in or support for IUU fishing.
The results of Operation Sparrow 2 follow the initial Operation Sparrow, which resulted in fines exceeding €16 million, as well as disqualification from fishing activities or receiving subsidies for periods ranging from five to 26 years, for those individuals and companies linked to fishing vessels Kunlun (IMO 7322897), Yongding (IMO 9042001), Songhua ( IMO 9319856) and Tiantai (IMO 7905039).