In July 2016, the trawler Greko 1 approached Mombasa, Kenya, a major fishing port on the western Indian Ocean. Registered in Belize and owned by a Panamanian subsidiary of a Greek company, the boat’s operators had been fishing for years in Somali waters and unloading and selling their catch in Mogadishu and Mombasa. In Kenya, they would present a fishing license issued by Somalia. Authorities in Mombasa had sought to verify the legitimacy of the license with their counterparts in Somalia and couldn’t get a response. But when the trawler approached Mombasa this time, port authorities denied the Greko 1 a berth, forcing the vessel back to sea.
What its operators didn’t realize was that since the last time it had been in Kenya, Somalia had joined FISH-i Africa, an initiative supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts that coordinates the efforts of eight East African coastal countries to stop illegal fishing in the region. At Somalia’s first meeting of the group a month earlier, it had shared information about the Greko 1, revealing to the other task force members that the vessel had been operating with a forged license.
Eventually the boat docked in Mogadishu. Port authorities there notified FISH-i Africa, which sent its technical team to the Somali capital to conduct an inspection. They found that Greko 1 had been fishing in waters reserved for Somali fishers and using illegal gear. Authorities forced the boat’s owner to pay a $65,000 fine.
But the story doesn’t end there. A photo that the inspectors took of the Greko 1 in Mogadishu revealed something they had been unable to see in person: Embossed on the hull, and painted over, was a different name. Further investigation revealed that the Greko 1 was previously named the Deeqa 1, which was listed as “scrapped” under a European Union program aimed at…