What are we proposing?
Malpelo’s vertical limestone cliffs constitute the principal challenge to conducting regular patrols. The island’s geology makes it impossible to pull small and nimble patrol vessels onto the safety of dry land in the case of adverse weather conditions. Therefore, patrols can only be conducted either by ocean-going motor vessels, with sizeable engines and extremely high capital and maintenance costs; or using a mother boat from which a smaller vessel can be launched and lifted to safety. Our operation will be based on the latter method, using a 55ft catamaran as a mother vessel from which we will launch a 15ft semi-rigid Milpro zodiac used by armed coast guard personnel for fast interceptions.
The Colombian constitution mandates that any suspect detained by law enforcement authorities to face prosecution must be presented before a judge within 36 hours of their arrest. As Malpelo is situated around 500km from the nearest Colombian city, a voyage that takes on average 35-40 hours on a standard vessel, suspects would have to immediately be taken back to land once detained, and cannot be held on the island waiting to be transferred by another boat.
Consequently, during the first stage of our operation, we will be unable to detain illegal fishermen for prosecution, as this would require halting our surveillance operation for 4 days while we transport the detained suspects back to port, thus leaving the island unprotected. Rather, our operation will focus on gathering evidence and confiscating all fishing equipment and destroying any fish we find onboard. The average cost of this equipment, including thousands of hooks, several kilometres of long-line and hundreds of plastic floating markers would usually add up to well over $10,000. Combined with the destruction of any fish already on-board and the wasted fuel used for the 1000-1500km round trip from Ecuador and Costa Rica to Malpelo, the cost imposed by this operation should act as a significant deterrent. Our ultra light patrol vessels (less than 400kgs) will be equipped with sufficiently powerful engines (80hp) to ensure they are capable of comfortably outrunning the fishing vessels operating in Malpelo. The armed coast guards manning our patrol vessels will be authorised to fire warning shots and/or open fire to disable the poaching vessel’s engines, thus ensuring an extremely high rate of apprehensions.