Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment have this week announced significant penalties on Vidal Armadores and their affiliates for participation in the management of vessels involved in IUU fishing.

The four vessels in question; the Kunlun, Songhua, Yongding and Tiantai, are believed to have been involved in illegal toothfish poaching since as early as 2002 and have been identified as IUU fishing vessels by various regional fisheries organisations.

The vessels had all changed their names, national registration and other identifying characteristics on multiple occasions to try and avoid detection. The Songhua, had been on the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) non-contracting party IUU fishing vessel list following an investigation in 2008 and had used at least eight names under six flags. The Yongding had operated under at least 11 different names and nine flags since 2001, and the Kunlun had used at least 10 different names and five flags since 2006.

The vessels are now out of action with the Kunlun detained in Senegal, the Songhua and Yongding held in Cape Verde, and Tiantai sunk in Antarctic waters in 2014.

In total nine companies and seven individuals have been penalised for their involvement in the activities of vessels engaged in illegal fishing. Sanctions include their disqualification from fishing activities, a ban on obtaining subsidies, and sizeable fines totalling €17,840,000 which are broken down as follows:

Energy Viarsa €1,200,000
Vidal Armadores €2,100,000
Primary Capital €2,100,000
Alimenta Corporation €1,300,000
Alimenta Tunidos€ 450,000
Sustainable Fishing Galician €100,000
Viarsa Portfolio €850,000
Seven Individuals €8,650,000

In addition, companies Vidal Armadores SA, Propegarvi and Renewable Projects and Developments Sustainable SL, and their personnel who were present during the course of Operation Yuyus were fined €1,090,001 for the destruction of documents.

Antonio Vidal Suarez and his three children were amongst the six people arrested during Operation Yuyus and who are expected to face criminal proceedings for crimes against the environment, integration in a criminal organisation, money laundering and forgery.

Stop Illegal Fishing welcomes the actions of the Spanish government in holding Vidal Armadores and it’s affiliates to account. For years, this organsiation has apparently not only flouted the regulations but has also received sizeable government subsidies. The leadership and commitment now being demonstrated by Spain sets an example to the rest of the world.

The complexity of dealing with transnational organised crime groups requires the help and support of many agencies in many countries. David Higgins, Head of INTERPOL’s Environmental Security unit commented that  ‘this successful operation led by Spain and involving multiple countries supported by INTERPOL clearly shows what can be achieved through international cooperation, and will hopefully provide a blueprint for other investigations in the future.’