The Death of Ghanian Observer, Samuel Abayateye. On 9 December 2023, the decapitated and mutilated body of fisheries observer Samuel Abayateye washed up ashore in Anyamam in Ghana. He was 28 years old. 

Fisheries observers are tasked with recording a vessel’s catch and reporting any illegal activities, responsibilities that can incite hostilities from the crew. While aboard the Marine Ghanian-flagged Marine 707 (and registered to South Korean company World Marine Co. Ltd.), Samuel Abayateye attempted to contact his supervisor on October 28 to report an incident he had witnessed. Three days later, he was officially declared missing. And then in December, his brother found and identified Samuel’s mutilated body with the head, feet, and legs missing near his family’s lagoon, raising countless unanswered questions. 

Fundraising Campaign
GoFundMe Page APO

The Association for Professional Observers (APO) have since launched a GoFundMe campaign to support Samuel’s family as the investigation develops. All funds will be delivered to Samuel’s widow, Hagar Kudzorzdi Abayateye, to help her provide for her children and buy a sewing machine in hopes of opening seamstress shop. Hagar also plans to hire an attorney that will urge the Ghanian police to undertake a thorough and transparent investigation. 

In line with our mission to bring justice to fisheries observers, Human Rights at Sea International is pleased to donate to the APO’s fundraising campaign and help bring justice to Samuel’s family. 

Another Life Lost

Samuel is far from the only fisheries observer who has died while working. Accounting for only reported cases, nearly 20 fisheries observers have died or disappeared in the past 15 years alone. That list includes another Ghanian Observer, Emmanuel Essien, who disappeared at sea in 2019. 

Samuel’s case is unique in that a body was recovered during the investigation - a key piece of evidence that can help investigators determine a culprit. Unfortunately this was not the case with death of fisheries observer Eritara Aati Kaierua, who died in March 2020 aboard the Taiwanese flagged FVWIN FAR 636. While an initial autopsy declared Eritara’s death to be a result of blunt-force trauma to the head, second and third autopsies conducted on behalf of the vessel’s owners claimed his death was triggered by natural causes. To this day and despite HRASi’s independent case review of the investigation, Eritara’s case remains unsolved, leaving the family without answers or justice. 

Related Justice Efforts - Eritara Aati Kaierua (Kiribati)

In coordination with the APO and other relevant stakeholders, HRASi will be launching a justice and awareness-raising project on behalf of Eritara’s family that will push for the adoption of international policies that serve to protect observers and their families. An announcement concerning the kickoff of these efforts will be shared in the coming weeks.

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View Video from Mongabay for Samuel Abayateye

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Sources: Content obtained from the Association for Professional Observers and Mongabay public reporting.

Photo credit. Mongabay 2024.

Reporting: Sara Pipernos, HRAS International.

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