Fishing Vessels Find Safe Harbor in Cameroon – VOA Learn English | Gmx Pharm

The large fishing boat called Trondheim pulls in tons of mackerel and sardines as it moves in the Atlantic from Nigeria to Mauritania. It flies the flag of Cameroon, a West African nation.

However, the boat has no real connection to Cameroon.

The Trondheim was once named King Fisher while sailing under the flag of the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It was later registered in the former Soviet Union country of Georgia.

In 2019 it moved again to Cameroon.

Reporters from The Associated Press wrote about a system called “Flags of Convenience.” They found that the Trondheim is one of the many ships whose registration was recently changed to Cameroon. The companies that own the ships often change countries because they are looking less Regulation, or official rules they must follow.

Allegations of illegal fishing

The AP examined 80 vessels and their registrations using a service called MarineTraffic. The AP report notes that environmental groups have accused a number of vessels of illegal fishing practices.

Bonga fish, commonly found in West Africa and an important source of protein for artisanal fishing communities, are held in a basket on April 12, 2022 in Limbe, Cameroon. (AP Photo/Grace Ekpu)

Illegal acts include catching too much fish or not being honest about the type of fish caught.

The Associated Press reports that 14 of the ships, including the Trondheim, are owned by European Union-based companies.

However, as it flies the flag of Cameroon, the African nation is responsible for overseeing Trondheim’s activities.

But that’s a problem. A study appeared in the publication last year African security showed longstanding corruption in the ministries overseeing Cameroon’s fishing industry.

Warnings from Europe

Also last year, the European Commission issued a warning to Cameroon known as a “yellow card”. The commission said Cameroon should work harder to stop illegal fishing. If Cameroon doesn’t make changes, the Commission can issue a “red card” and ban fish caught by the country’s boats from entering European markets.

Rapid growth

Data from two companies that track the fisheries and shipping fair, Cameroon had just 14 registered vessels in 2018. This year it has 129 registered vessels. Documents also show that Cameroon’s Fisheries Ministry’s budget fell by 32 percent from 2019 to 2021.

The United Nations have established a rule that requires a real bond between a boat and the flag it is flying.

A representative of Cameroon’s fisheries monitoring agency, Paul Nkesi, said the government recognized the need to increase fishing At sight the boats. But he said the boats are all legally registered.

Damaged fishery

Julien Daudu works for the Environmental Justice Foundation in the UK. He said the practice of “flags of convenience … (is) simple, cheapyou can do it quickly.”

One concern with all of the new vessels flying Cameroon’s flag is that they will hurt the fishing boats, which are actually operated by local fishermen. The large boats of European companies are all at least 100 meters long and work in the waters along the entire African coast.

A fishmonger displays barracudas for sale at a fresh fish market in Limbe, Cameroon, April 10, 2022.  (AP Photo/Grace Ekpu)

A fishmonger displays barracudas for sale at a fresh fish market in Limbe, Cameroon, April 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Grace Ekpu)

“You can fish more than 1,000 local boats,” said Simeon Oviri. He is a fisherman working on the coast near Douala, Cameroon’s largest city.

Important food source

Another concern is that the big ships off West Africa’s Atlantic coast are catching some small fish that some believe are overfished.

Maurice Beseng is a researcher at the University of Sheffield in the UK. He said many of the small fish are an important source of food for people in African countries. Fish such as anchovies and sardines are sent to Europe as fishmeal and fish oil. But if they stayed in Africa, they would be eaten by about 6.7 million people who depend on them for sustenance.

The AP worked to trace 14 of the big ships to their owners in Malta, Belgium, Latvia and Cyprus. The AP also worked with other news groups around the world to investigate “flags of convenience” and illegal fishing. It turned out that some of the vessels were owned by companies associated with the fishery scandal in Senegal 10 years ago.

The past flags of the big fishing boats are not well documented, observers say. The countries that have registered the boats in the past don’t seem interested in helping regulators track the boats when they change names and countries.

“Many loopholes”

Beatrice Gorez works with the Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements. Her group worked to show the links between European companies and the newly added boats in Cameroon fleet.

She said the flag changes came after the European Parliament introduced tough rules. The regulations were put in place to monitor European boats fishing in other countries’ waters.

A Cameroonian flag flies on a ship in the port of Douala, Cameroon, on April 10, 2022.  (AP Photo/Grace Ekpu)

A Cameroonian flag flies on a ship in the port of Douala, Cameroon, on April 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Grace Ekpu)

She said the rules are a good idea but boats can “underpants out” by changing their flags.

Beseng said that even if the EU rules are based on good ideas, “there are many loopholes”. A loophole is a problem in the way a rule is written that allows people to legally prevent themselves from following it.

Daudu said even investigators find it difficult to find the history of the fishing boats. He called the information “well hidden” or hidden.

“That would take a lot of time,” said Daudu. “Sometimes it’s so well hidden that you can’t even find information.”

I’m Dan Friedell. And I’m Dorothy Gundy.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on an Associated Press report.


words in this story

Convenience -n. a quality or situation that makes something easy or useful for someone by reducing the amount of work or time required to do something

regulation -n. an official regulation or law that specifies how to do something

At sight – adj. the act or task of directing the work that is being done

cheap – adj. unexpensive

loophole -n. a mistake in the way a law, rule, or contract is written that allows some people to legally prevent themselves from following it

scandal -n. an event in which people are shocked and upset because of morally or legally wrong behavior

fleet -n. a group of ships or craft moving or working together, or controlled or owned by a corporation

underpants -n. get away from something quietly

hide -v. to hide from plain sight


What do you think of the easy access to the Cameroonian flag? We want to hear from you.

We have a new comment system. Thats how it works:

Write your comment in the field.

Below the box you will see four images for social media accounts. They are for Disqus, Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Click on an image and a box will appear. Enter the login for your social media account. Or you can create one in the Disqus system. It’s the blue circle with the “D” on it. It is free.

Each time you come back to comment on the Learning English site, you can use your account and see your comments and replies to them. Our comment policy is here.

Leave a Comment