Saturday, February 7, 2015

Desperation, Determination, and Tempers Surface in the Southern and Indian Oceans

Greetings everyone! Today I come to you all with an update on Sea Shepherd's ongoing anti poaching campaign in the Southern Ocean. Boy what a busy week it has been. So busy in fact that things were happening faster than I could find time to blog about! For the duration of this blog keep in mind where these ships are in the world. They are several hours ahead of where I am typing from so where they are it is already Sunday. This blog will be a timeline based on this timezone and not where the ships currently are located. Let's start with Monday...

On Monday, the Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon located two illegal toothfish poaching vessels. The two vessels that were located are two of the three that the New Zealand Navy had followed around for a bit. The Sam Simon is now in pursuit of a fleeing poaching vessel, Kunlun. The Kunlun was ordered out of the area by the Sam Simon. Rather than leave, the illegal fishing vessel turned towards and nearly rammed the conservation vessel as seen below...

The poaching vessel, Yongding, turned toward the Sam Simon, missing a collision by 10 metres. Photo: Jeff Wirth
Photo: Sea Shepherd

Back on January 13th, at the request of the New Zealand Navy, the Kunlun and two other vessels were issued Interpol Purple Notices. As of this time, the Sam Simon continues to pursue the Kunlun which has left the fishing grounds.

On Wednesday, in the Indian Ocean, things heated up between the Sea Shepherd Vessel, Bob Barker, and the illegal toothfish poaching vessel, Thunder. During the night, the Thunder was seen deploying illegal fishing gear.

Crew of the Thunder trails nets from the stern of the poaching vessel. Photo: Simon Ager

With the fishing gear deployed, the poachers again began to flee the pursuing conservationists. Rather than lose the poachers, Sea Shepherd elected to continue the chase. After running for a day, the Thunder turned and began to head back towards the nets. The ships arrived back at the nets yesterday (Friday our time, Saturday their time) where a standoff took place. After about an hour or so of blocking the Thunder's attempts at recovering the net, the Captain of the Thunder decided to put the lives of both the conservationists and his own crew on the line. The poaching vessel crossed within one meter of the conservation vessel's bow as seen in the video that will be at the end of this paragraph. Also in the video you will see the illegal fishing operation. You will also notice a shark being tossed back into the sea. Sea Shepherd believes that the reason for this was that the Thunder was not fishing for a profit this time, but rather for food. If it had been for profit, the shark would probably have been finned. Whatever the reason, it is still illegal.

That brings us to what amounts to breaking news! Just a short time ago, Sea Shepherd posted on Facebook that they had shut down the Thunder's latest attempt at illegally fishing. The Captain of the Thunder radioed the Bob Barker and stated that they were going to resume fishing activities. The Bob Barker responded by telling the Thunder that they would obstruct any attempt at illegal fishing. As the Thunder began to deploy the line, the crew of the Bob Barker tossed a grappling hook and reeled in the net and cut the line leading back to the Thunder. Once the net was retrieved the Thunder reeled in the remainder of the net and ceased fishing operations. Obviously angered by the conservationists success, the captain of the Thunder radioed the Bob Barker claiming that they were going to get their fishing gear the easy way or the hard way and that the Bob Barker had declared "War" on them.
The buoy set marks the beginning of the Thunder's gillnet. Photo: Simon AgerThe crew of the Bob Barker recovery the buoy set marks, preventing the Thunder from shooting the rest of the net. Photo: Simon Ager

Photos: Sea Shepherd (Conservationists reeling in the line from the Thunder)

The Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt responded by saying that the net will be used as evidence against the Thunder and that the Thunder is more than welcome to follow the Bob Barker to port to retrieve the net. The Thunder chased after the faster conservation ship for two hours before stopping at which point, the Bob Barker also stopped. Latest news is that the two ships are just drifting.

So now you are all caught up on the pursuit of poachers in both the Southern and Indian Oceans. The Thunder is appearing to be more and more desperate with each passing day. Tempers are flaring and it seems that the pressure (and evidence) continues to be mounting against the poachers. Elsewhere the Sam Simon continues to pursue the  KunLun. Sea Shepherd's determination to do the job that the Government of Australia continues to fail in doing is unwavering and for that, the sea and anyone who cares about it must offer a huge thank you!!!

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