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Senegal Seizes Russian Trawler Fishing 'Illegally'

A photo from a Greenpeace blacklist of the Russian-flagged trawler "Oleg Naidenov"
A photo from a Greenpeace blacklist of the Russian-flagged trawler "Oleg Naidenov"
The Senegalese fisheries minister says Senegal could impose a fine of up to 600,000 euros (over $815,000) on a Russian ship for repeatedly fishing illegally in its waters.

The "Oleg Naidenov" trawler arrived in Dakar overnight on January 5 under military escort after the Senegalese navy boarded the vessel off southern Senegal, near the border with Guinea Bissau. The navy said the ship had been observed fishing illicitly in the area.

Fisheries Minister Haidar El-Ali said Senegal could also "take the case to the courts because the captain would not obey orders" before the ship was boarded by the navy.

A spokesman for the Russian federal agency for fisheries, Rosrybolovstvo, dismissed allegations that the trawler had been fishing illegally and said Russia had not been officially informed about the reason for its detention

A Russian news agency reported that the ship had 62 Russians and 20 citizens of Guinea Bissau aboard.

Senegalese Fisheries Minister Haidar El Ali described the trawler as a "repeat offender."

The environmental group Greenpeace included the "Oleg Naidenov" on a blacklist of poaching vessels in West African seas.

Two years ago, Greenpeace activists painted the words "pillage!" and "plunder!" on the side of the "Oleg Naidenov's" hull after they discovered it fishing illegally -- with canvas covering its identifying markings -- in Senegalese waters.

The Russian Embassy in Senegal initially said it had not received any information about the detention of the trawler, which belongs to the company Feniks, registered in Murmansk, northern Russia.

A spokesman for Rosrybolovstvo, Aleksandr Savelyev, said: "We have not been provided with any sensible explanation from Senegalese authorities about the reasons behind this brash armed attack against the Russian fishing trawler. The crew -- both Russian and Guinea Bissau citizens -- is currently being held by [the Senegalese] military police onboard the trawler that is moored at a [marine] military base in Dakar. Russian fishing company Rosrybolovstvo representatives are trying to get through to them."

Yury Parshev, the executive director of the company that reportedly owns the "Oleg Naidenov," told Rossiya 24 TV that the seizure "is an attempt to squeeze out our flag and our fleet from this region of the world ocean among others -- plain and simple. We have been present there before and we have always worked in these territories."

Senegal has long battled unauthorized fishing by foreign trawlers in its waters.

In its blacklisting, Greenpeace noted that "[t]he 120 meter-long 'Oleg Naydenov' is one example of the enormous foreign fleet of foreign trawlers operating in West Africa’s waters."

Based on reporting by AFP, ITAR-TASS, and RFE/RL
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