Three Vietnamese “Blue Boats” illegally entered the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Solomon Islands to conduct illegal fishing operations. Three fishermen from these boats stand trial in this case summary.
The Vietnamese “Blue Boats” illegally harvested marine resources, such as bêche-de-mer (sea cucumber), giant clams and others inside the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Solomon Islands. The crew used prohibited fishing gear, such as diving compressor hoses, which allow for the harvest of much larger quantities of marine resources than in comparison to conventional fishing methods.
In March 2017, the boats were apprehended during an operation of the Maritime Police of Solomon Islands. When encountered on open water, the defendants tried to escape with their fishing vessel. The Maritime Police rammed the vessel several times and used rubber bullets and teargas to force it to a stop. The fact that the defendants tried to escape law enforcement interception was considered an aggravating circumstance during the trial.
The court noted that financial prospects motivated the defendants to engage in this far distant illegal fishing operation. The judge remarked that overfishing of their own national waters head led to foreign vessels intruding in the Solomon Islands’ Exclusive Economic Zone and emphasized the seriousness of harvesting vulnerable species with importance to local communities, such as sea cucumbers and giant clams. Furthermore, the court found that similar incidents relating to the intrusion of Vietnamese “Blue Boats” had been observed in neighbouring states. Hence, the court emphasized the need for a deterrent penalty as the Solomon Islands seem to be viewed as a “soft target” by those illegal fishing operators.
The court did not see sufficient evidence to the notion of the defendants, claiming that they themselves were subject to human trafficking for the purpose of forced labour on the fishing vessels.
During the hearing of 5th July 2017, the defendants pleaded guilty to four counts pertaining to violations of the Fisheries Management Act of 2015 and the Fisheries (Amendment) Regulations of 2009.
On 14th July 2017, the defendants were sentenced to two 2 years imprisonment and fines amounting to 11,050,000.00 Solomon Islands Dollar (SBD), which roughly translates to USD 1.4 million. The fines were payable within thirty days and another default period of 2 years imprisonment would run consecutively to the existing custodial sentence if payments would not occur.
Furthermore, the three Vietnamese “Blue Boats” were forfeited to the Solomon Islands Government.
Three Vietnamese “Blue Boats” were seized to be forfeited to the Solomon Islands
Government. Registration numbers: QNg 90286TS, QNg 90529TS, QNg 90557TS.
High Court of Solomon Islands
The three defendants Do Van Va, Vo Van Vi and Nguyen Nguyen were charged and sentenced on the same counts, hence they are being listed together.
Section 37(1) and (2) of the Fisheries Management Act 2015.
Illegal entry into Solomon Islands Fisheries waters without appropriate entry permit approved by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
Section 13(A) of the Fisheries (Amendment) Regulations 2009.
Illegal catching and selling of beche-de-mer.
Section 26(1) of the Fisheries Management Act 2015.
Possession of prohibited fishing gears on board your fishing vessels within the Solomon Islands Fisheries Waters.
Section 44(1)(a) of the Fisheries Management Act 2015.
Activities relating to fish processing to wit processing of beche-de-mer, salted with sea water and bined salt for the purposes of export without a valid or appropriate licence approved by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
The three Vietnamese “Blue Boats” were forfeited to the Solomon Islands Government.
High Court of Solomon Islands