Operation Sparrow investigation complete: €17.84 million in fines.

The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment have announced the final sanctions from Operation Sparrow 1.

 48 administrative infractions to Spanish operators, 44 of them serious, with penalties amounting to a total of 17.84 million euros are to be collected.

 Both Sparrow operations (I and II) represent a decisive step in addressing the business and financial network that links certain illegal fishing activities with Spanish interests in the Antarctic Ocean.

The Ministry has notified concerned parties the proposed resolution of the sanctioning procedure of Operation Sparrow, that puts an end to the investigation stage of the process.

The draft resolution contains a total of 48 administrative violations, 44 of them very serious, punishable by fines amounting to EUR 17.84 million and penalties of disqualification of fishing activities. Upon notification, stakeholders have a period of 22 days to submit comments.


Throughout the investigation, it has been established the existence of a business structure in which various companies, both Spanish and foreign, are operating and managing several ships, the Songhua, Kunlun, Yongding and Tiantai. These vessels are included in both the IUU vessel listings of the European Community and regional fisheries organizations such as CCAMLR.  These actions of these vessels are classified as serious and very serious infringements in the Community Regulation 1005/2008 to Combat IUU Fishing and the Maritime Law of the State Fisheries.

The actions taken during the investigative stage of the proceedings, together with the analysis of the extensive documentation obtained through international collaboration, and the preliminary investigation, with more than 3,000 documents have revealed that the core of the network is Spanish and consists of several legal entities and individuals who use foreign companies brought in order to avoid the discovery of the facts and of accountability by the Spanish authorities.

The object of the procedure is to sanction the individuals or companies in the ownership, management and operation of vessels identified by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and other international organizations as engaging in illegal fishing.

Also in this case they were accused of alleged violations of obstructing the inspection work carried out by the inspectors of the General Secretariat of Fisheries, which were covered by court order authorizing the entry and search of the headquarters of that Spanish companies.

All these actions have been developed under the reform of the Law 3/2001, of March 26 State Marine Fisheries, by the Law 33/2014. In this sense, although these facts were already established previously as very serious infringements, the reform grants new powers of inspectors to the fight against IUU fishing and the possibility of imposing sanctions for higher amounts.

The procedure followed in the first operation is the same as Operation Sparrow 2, held in the month of July.  In Sparrow 2, the complexity was higher, carried out against several enterprises and in different places and provinces.

In addition, more documentation was collected, with more than 9,000 documents, which continue to be analysed and classified, which is expected in the coming months to lead to the start of new initiatives, following disciplinary procedures under the fisheries legislation Spanish.


Throughout the entire 2015, international cooperation has been intensified, and the support of countries like Australia, New Zealand, Cape Verde, and Malaysia is still key to advance knowledge against IUU fishing, and especially the links detected Operation Sparrow. This is an essential axis on which the fight against illegal fishing, along with the need for an effective and legally binding legal framework to be structured.

In order to enhance this cooperation, Spain continues to actively participate in international fora on illegal fishing, both within the EU itself, as outside EU borders.

Combating IUU fishing requires the commitment and involvement of all stakeholders, so we must acknowledge, support and encourage initiatives in the Spanish fishing sector and other actors such as NGOs working in their part and the fishing community being aware of the seriousness of IUU fishing and its activities.

Spain is a country with an unquestionable commitment to the fight against illegal fishing and in order of effectiveness, has opted for a comprehensive response to this challenge, with the implementation of control measures and enforcement as port State, as a coastal state, as state flag and as an importer and exporter State.

-translated from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment