In last 20 years, international trawlers in West Africa have taken hundreds of tonnes of fish for export to Europe, at the expense of local small-scale fishermen. Foreign trawlers often violate the regulation to stay outside the 12-mile limit, as most countries lack the resources to patrol their waters. Pirate fishermen in Sierra Leone fish inside exclusion zones, refuse to pay fines, cover identification marks, use banned fishing equipment, employ poor hygiene conditions on-board, bribe enforcement officers and attack local fisherman, among other violations. According to the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Sierra Leone loses $30 million annually as a result of pirate fishing.
Between January 1, 2010 and July 31, 2012, local communities with the support of the Environmental Justice Foundation documented 10 vessels illegally fishing in Sierra Leonean waters. Crew on board one of the vessels, Medra, attacked a local fisher, while another, Marcia 707, picked up approximately 200 artisanal fishers and their canoes in Senegal before deploying them to fish illegally in the inshore areas reserved for local fishers.
The investigation resulted in a number of victories against the companies and an increase in fishing catches for local communities after the vessels left Sierra Leonean waters.