HomeNewsFrench Guiana’s Unpatrolled Waters Lure Illegal Fishing Crews
NEWS

French Guiana’s Unpatrolled Waters Lure Illegal Fishing Crews

BRAZIL / 2 MAR 2021 BY SHANE SULLIVAN AND CHRIS DALBY EN

Illegal fishing off the coast of French Guiana surged amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as French maritime patrols struggled to mobilize resources, luring illegal fishing crews to the country's pristine waters.

On February 11, a Venezuelan fishing vessel was intercepted in French territorial waters by two French Navy vessels, with almost a ton of illegally caught red snapper on board, according to France TV. This was just a drop in the ocean, as nearly 20 tons of fish have been seized from illegal fishing vessels since the first of the year.

French Guiana is not a new target for this practice but Navy ships have tussled with fishermen from BrazilGuyana and Suriname in recent months. In 2020, French Guiana’s authorities reduced sea patrols due to sanitary restrictions and unforeseen resource shortages, as recognized last September by Captain Eric Aymard, the commander of French Guiana’s Maritime Zone, who coordinates the country’s operations against illegal fishing.

Despite local reports of more than a dozen foreign boats operating off the coast of Iracoubo, a region known for its bountiful waters, maritime patrols were made less frequent amid concerns that contact with illegal fishing crews risked spreading COVID-19. Instead, resources were deployed to supplement the country’s response to the evolving health crisis, with serviceable vessels used to enforce border closures with Brazil and Suriname.

SEE ALSO: Chinese Fishing Fleet Leaves Ecuador, Chile, Peru Scrambling to Respond

“Of the five coastal and offshore vessels, I had two left to do the same job as usual,” explained Aymard, referring to a series of scheduled maintenance reviews for French Guiana’s maritime fleet.

With several boats docked for repairs, the fight against illegal fishing fell to one coast guard patrol boat, the “Organabo.” For various months, the Organabo balanced the policing of Brazilian fishing boats in the east and patrolling the waters off Iracoubo in the west, where Venezuelan and Surinamese crews operate.

One exception came between September 7 and 13, 2020, when authorities launched Operation Mokarran 2020, in a push to crack down on illegal fishing. Over that week, aerial and naval forces impounded a number of ships, including one Brazilian vessel carrying over three tons of fish and fish bladders.

InSight Crime Analysis

While illegal fishing has risen across the region, especially due to the pandemic and the economic crisis it exacerbated, French Guiana has rarely struggled to enforce its maritime zone. The French naval base at Kourou has given the territory a stronger ability to react to illegal fishing than many of its neighbors.

SEE ALSO: Economic Hardship During Pandemic Caused Wildlife Trafficking in Brazil to Soar

Historically, French authorities have been active in cracking down on the ships and crews, usually destroying any boats that are caught and sentencing any fishermen putting up a fight to fixed prison terms. In October 2019, five Brazilian fishermen were sentenced to 18-month jail terms, largely for resisting arrest, while 22 of their crewmates were sent back across the border.

However, the combination of scheduled repairs and the COVID-19 pandemic allowed fishermen to target the relatively pristine waters of French Guiana. Recent studies have shown how well preserved the waters of French Guiana have remained, with one report by Greenpeace in 2019 showing that the area was critical for emblematic species, including humpback whales, hammerhead sharks, sailfish and ocean sunfish.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 12 MAR 2021

The Brazilian agency that inspects mining sites and seizes illegally mined ore is vastly understaffed, a consequence of a government…

BRAZIL / 6 SEP 2022

Brazil’s anti-contraband operations on the Paraguay border are upsetting Paraguayans and doing little to stop smuggling.

BRAZIL / 5 NOV 2020

The charges of embezzlement and money laundering faced by Flávio Bolsonaro may be the first severe crack in a corrupt edifice…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…