15 March 2022
St Helena Government Marine Enforcement Section is aware of recent media reports of a Taiwanese longline vessel Chien Tsao (number 332) fishing inside St Helena waters.
The Marine Enforcement Section has been investigating the event with the UK’s Blue Belt Surveillance and Intelligence Hub.
Media reports were made based on observations from an Automatic Identification System (AIS) via the internet. AIS is a tracking system where vessels transmit their location and movement data via satellite.
AIS and satellite imagery available during that period has been interrogated. There is no evidence that the vessel fished illegally.
The AIS data coming from the Chien Tsao was very unusual and was already under investigation before media reports were released.
Analysis has shown that the vessel did not deploy any buoys into the water. The reported positions are consistent with the transmitters on the buoys being activated whilst they remained on-board the vessel.
The Chien Tsao is a longline vessel. When longline vessels are fishing they will typically operate at speeds between 2-6 knots and will move in patterns as they deploy and retrieve their longlines (see figure 1).
The Chien Tsao maintained a straight course and was moving between 9-10 Knots (see figure 2).
The tracking data shows the Chien Tsao transited West to East through St Helena’s waters at speeds over 9 knots. The vessel then met with a Panamanian reefer vessel and then passed back through St Helena waters, heading East to West.
The speed and track of the Chien Tsao both indicate that it did not fish while transiting through St Helena waters.
Longline vessels not transmitting via AIS
There are occasions where some vessels have gaps in their AIS data or they disappear from AIS entirely, this is often referred to as ‘going dark’.
Offshore fishing vessels carry a second tracking system called VMS (Vessel Monitoring System). This system is secure and is managed by the vessels home country.
Over the last few weeks, two Spanish longline vessels went dark whilst fishing close to the St Helena EEZ.
With the help of Blue Belt Surveillance and Intelligence Hub, the Marine Enforcement Section has now received VMS data from the Spanish Government’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and can confirm that there has been no incursions into St Helena waters.
As part of the Blue Belt Programme, St Helena benefits from assistance to the compliance and enforcement of our marine protected area. Through the Programme we receive assistance with constant surveillance of vessels within St Helena waters. This includes monitoring any vessels in and around our waters through tracking AIS reports as well as using satellite surveillance.
Due to the 24/7 surveillance and monitoring of the waters around St Helena, we can be reassured there is a high level of compliance.
In the last 12 months, 291 checks were made by the Blue Belt Surveillance and Intelligence Hub, all were compliant – confirming that there were no attempts to fish illegally in our waters and effective compliance and enforcement measures are helping to protect our waters.
#FCDO #StHelena #SHGO #UKGOVBlueBelt
15 March 2021