Notorious Trawler from National Geographic Series Arrested in Liberia

Monday, 05 Sep, 2022

A trawler featured in the award-winning National Geographic series Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller was arrested in Liberia after Liberian Coast Guard sailors stationed on board the Sea Shepherd Global ship Age of Union boarded the notorious vessel off the coast of the West African country.  

Age of Union with dead bycatch of fishing vessel. Photo by Thomas Le Coz/Sea Shepherd

The arrest of Kanbal III marks the twentieth arrest made by the Liberian Coast Guard since 2017, working together with Sea Shepherd Global to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. 

In an episode titled ‘Fish Pirates’, investigative journalist Mariana van Zeller took an interest in Kanbal III due to a history of long periods of “going dark”, another term for not using mandatory location transponders, and a key indicator of possible illegal fishing activity. 

Prior to arriving in Liberia, the vessel had also claimed to be registered under the flag of Somalia, an unlikely development on the west coast of the African continent.  

But no illegal activity was uncovered when Van Zeller joined the Liberian Coast Guard for an inspection at sea with Van Zeller commenting, “I learned one of the great ironies of the fishing world. Despite the fact that almost 20% of our seafood comes from the black market, it is almost impossible to catch anyone red-handed”. 

Captain Peter Hammarstedt with Mariana van Zeller for the National Geographic series "Trafficked". Photo by Antonio Danzi/Sea Shepherd.

This weekend, the vessel was again boarded, but this time Liberian Coast Guard sailors found a Senegalese inspection report from May 2022 that outlined a number of safety issues that had still not been addressed.  

Kanbal III had a long list of ship safety violations—life raft issues, fire extinguisher problems and expired emergency transponders--the maritime safety equivalent of Chef Gordon Ramsay walking into one of his ‘Kitchen Nightmares’. This is what Sea Shepherd and Age of Union are all about, saving and protecting all life at sea”, said Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd Global’s Director of Campaigns. 

The vessel was placed under arrest and was escorted to the Port of Monrovia for detention. 

“Last year, my Coastguardsmen on Age of Union, rescued twelve people when a ferry sank after taking on water. Many passengers died, including children, because Niko Ivanka did not carry flotation devices for the entire complement. I have a zero tolerance policy against infractions that threaten the safety of life at sea."

Liberia’s Minister of National Defense, the Honorable Maj Gen (Ret.) Daniel Ziankahn.
Liberian Coast Guard sailor on deck of Kanbal III. Photo by Manuel Lopez/Sea Shepherd.

About Operation Sola Stella 

Since 2017, Sea Shepherd Global has partnered with the Liberian Coast Guard to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing through joint at-sea patrols under the direction of Liberia’s Minister of National Defense, the Honorable Maj Gen (Ret.) Daniel Ziankahn. To date, 20 vessels have been arrested for illegal fishing and other crimes.  

On February 11, 2019, Sea Shepherd Global was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) by Liberian President Dr. George Manneh Weah in recognition of the success of Operation Sola Stella. The DSO is the highest military award given by the Ministry of National Defense and the Armed Forces of Liberia, recognizing exceptional service to the Republic of Liberia. 

Learn more about Operation Sola Stella

Fishing vessel Kanbal III. Photo by Thomas Le Coz/Sea Shepherd
Dead fish in wake of Kanbal III. Photo Thomas Le Coz/Sea Shepherd
Fishing vessel Kanbal III. Photo by Manuel Lopez/Sea Shepherd
Liberian Coast Guard sailors on arrested vessel. Photo by Manuel Lopez/Sea Shepherd
Bycatch on board shrimp trawler, Kanbal III. Photo by Manuel Lopez/Sea Shepherd
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