Piracy, poaching and people smuggling? – the case of the LUCKY STAR

Summary

The LUCKY STAR was well known throughout the WIO and had been reported repeatedly for poaching in Somali waters and for harassing artisanal fishers in Kenyan waters. FISH-i Africa revealed the possible use of multiple identities and has supported the Task Force in tackling these challenges that include the issue of non-fishery agencies being responsible for registration of fishing vessels.

Key events

2010-2011:  The LUCKY STAR previously known as GOLDEN WAVE NO. 305 was reported hijacked by Somali pirates in 2010 and released in 2011 – media stories at the time suggested that the vessel had been fishing illegally in Somali waters at the time of its hijacking, but this is not verified. The vessel was subsequently reported in Somali waters on a number of occasions, its operations and the legality of this is not clear.

Unknown:  The GOLDEN WAVE NO. 305 was registered to Kenyan authorities but at a later, unspecified date, Kenyan authorities denied LUCKY STAR both a flag and a fishing license due to un-seaworthiness and non-compliance issues.

2013:  Investigations by FISH-i established that between 2005 and 2008 the LUCKY STAR had offloaded in Mombasa on several occasions under Kenya flag but using the call sign of a South Korean longliner, CHANCE No. 101. This raised the possibility that the vessel could have been operating with multiple identities.

September 2013:  The LUCKY STAR’s was re-flagged to Tanzania after being de-flagged by Kenya.

April to May 2014:  The LUCKY STAR, listed on the IOTC vessel register and authorised to fish between January 2014 and March 2015, left Mombasa and was at sea for a month. On its return to Mombasa it offloaded reef species, despite only having a permit to target tuna and related species, the captain claimed that he had not been fishing in Kenyan waters. The Kenyan authorities worked with FISH-i Africa to establish the movements and activity of the vessel.

May 2014:  Tanzanian authorities reported that the vessel had been fishing during early 2014 but had not been transmitting a VMS signal despite repeated requests and Tanzania then withheld its authorisation to fish until the VMS data was supplied.

2014:  Unverified information obtained from sources inside Somalia have suggested that the LUCKY STAR may be involved in people smuggling and/or arms smuggling to Somalia and, although described as a longliner, LUCKY STAR is engaged in trapping for crabs.

March 2015:  The Deep Sea Fishing Authority in Tanzania sent a letter to the Zanzibar Maritime Authority requesting that they de-register the vessel due to their failure to supply VMS data.

May 2016:  The LUCKY STAR is renamed as PRECIOUS DIAMOND and is again flagged to Kenya. The Kenyan fisheries authorities have denied the vessel to fish outside of the Kenyan EEZ.

What did FISH-i Africa do?

  • Tanzania de-flagged the Lucky Star
  • Tracked and monitored the vessel over several years
  • Inspected the vessel
  • Kenya Fisheries Department refused to issue an authorisation to fish outside of the Kenya EEZ
  • Improve procedures for inter-agency cooperation for registration of fishing vessels
  • Initiative a study into the flagging costs and benefits for fishing vessels

Conclusion

The LUCKY STAR has been a vessel of interest within the WIO for many years. Although still operating, now as the PRECIOUS DIAMOND the Kenyan fisheries authorities have limited its operation to the Kenyan EEZ and in partnership with FISH-i Africa will continue to monitor its whereabouts. This case has highlighted the challenges faced by fisheries authorities in respect to the registration of fishing vessels and facilitated improvements in procedures and increased awareness of the need for inter-agency cooperation.