"Pirate" fishing vessel got UK funds -officials

Wed Feb 1, 2012 2:20pm GMT

* UK gov't development agency funds invested in captured vessel

* Sierra Leone authorities spotted ship trawling illegally

* "Pirate fishing" costs West Africa around $1 bln per year

By Simon Akam

FREETOWN, Feb 1 (Reuters) - A vessel seized by Sierra Leone authorities for illegally fishing off the West African nation's coast received funds from a British government development agency through an investment fund, officials said.

Some $1.74 million from the UK government's Commonwealth Development Corporation was invested in the Sierra Fishing Company, owner of the vessel Marampa 803, through private equity firm ManoCap, according to ManoCap's founder.

Sierra Leone's military captured the 61-meter ship and its crew in mid-January after it was spotted trawling in nearshore waters reserved for small-scale local fishermen.

Illegal fishing costs West African governments around $1 billion in lost catch each year, threatening one of the world's best remaining fisheries and cutting badly needed revenues to some of the world's poorest states.

"We have asked ManoCap to undertake a thorough review with Sierra Fishing Company to establish why this happened and to report back to us with the details of the actions to be taken to ensure that this does not happen again," CDC spokesman Rhyddid Carter said by email in response to enquiries.   Continued...

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