The Spanish authorities have underscored Spain’s hardline stance on illegal fisheries with the conclusion of the Sparrow investigation and the Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Environment is seeking record penalties worth almost €18 million.
The investigation began in March 2015 with raids on companies in La Coruña, Ribeira and Boiro that were believed to be behind the activities of illegal fishing vessels Kunlun, Songhua, Yongdin, Thunder (which sank earlier this year after a long pursuit by Sea Shepherd) and Seabull via an intricate set of shell companies designed to mask their real ownership.
Kunlun, Yongdin and Songhua, detained in different ports this year following boardings by the New Zealand Navy that resulted in an Interpol purple notice being issued. The fishing vessels had been observed repeatedly fishing in Southern Ocean waters that are within the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) zone, operating under a variety of flags and names.
The penalties now being demanded by the Spanish authorities following Operation Sparrow are some of the toughest believed to ever have been sought for crimes involving illegal fisheries, demonstrating Spain’s determination to stamp out IUU fishing with a raft of legislation that provides investigators and prosecutors with far-reaching powers.
The findings of Operation Sparrow, which included input from investigation teams in New Zealand and Australia, indicates dozens of offences linked to the activities of Kunlun, Songhua , Yongdin and freighter Tiantai.
Before Operation Sparrow had been concluded, the Ministry launched the even more extensive Sparrow 2, which is expected to examine companies with links to IUU fishing.