Sunday, March 22, 2015

Update On Sea Shepherd's Operation Icefish and NJ's Shark Fin Bill

Hello everyone. Things have been pretty quiet lately hence I have not done a blog in a while. I've got some ideas of things to do here in-between news blogs and what not. Soooo Stay tuned for that. For now though let me catch you all up on some things that have developed just over the last week or so.

 On Monday, the New Jersey State Senate passed the bill that will see the banning of the sale, possession, and trade of shark fins in the state. As mentioned in an earlier blog this bill does have a couple exceptions to help protect both recreational and commercial fishermen. If a fisherman catches a shark and removes it's fins on dry land the fisherman is allowed to posses those fins, but he or she would not be able to trade or sell them. The fins of dogfish (both smooth and spiny) are exempt from this bill which means commercial fishermen will still be able to sell those sharks to Europe and the fins to Asia. The bill will now move to the New Jersey House of Representatives. So I'd like to say a big thank you to the New Jersey Senate for passing this bill. While it does not put an end to the sale of fins, it does act to make it harder for people to utilize the fins of larger species such as mako and thresher that continue to feel more and more pressure from overfishing.

On the other side of the world, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society continues to tail the icefish poaching vessel "Thunder". The two ships are now approaching the Gulf of Guinea, an area notorious for piracy. Sea Shepherd will continue to pursue the poachers into these vessels and have prepared the Bob Barker with anti boarding spikes that are now jutting out from the ship. The two ships continue to slowly inch North as the poachers continue to try and outlast the larger and better supplied in fuel and food, conservation vessel. Elsewhere, the efforts of New Zealand and Sea Shepherd may soon be rewarded. Currently the poaching vessel "Kunlun" is being detained in Thailand as the government has agreed to assist in New Zealand and Australia's request to bring these ships to justice! In hopes of defending themselves the crew of the Kunlun had resorted to calling their catch grouper and not toothfish. Needless to say that that did not get the fishermen anywhere. Members of the Spanish crime syndicate Vidal Armadores have arrived at the scene and are trying to get their boat released as Thailand does not have any domestic fishing laws (will hopefully begin enforcement in June). So the ship is being held on two basis. One, the fishermen claiming the fish is something that they are not is a crime. Two, the ship did not reach port with the name Kunlun and it was not flying the flag it was originally seen flying, but the flag of Indonesia, and had a different name, the "Tiachan". This facade did not fool authorities though as authorities were told by Indonesia that no such ship was registered there. So Thailand can detain the ship as a stateless ship.

With that being said, I hope that Thailand will force the surrender of the ship's catch, and while I don't think they will be able to detain the ship for too long, I would love to see the entire crew arrested. In Spain, the Spanish government have recently conducted raids on the Vidal Armadores so it does seem like between that, the situation in Thailand, and the one on the high seas, that the pressure is mounting quickly on this syndicate and I can only hope that Interpol and Spain can get this all under control!   

Wow! I don't think I've ever had to do this before! If you look I have crossed out the entire last paragraph... Here's why. Just a few minutes ago Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson reported that the Kunlun has offloaded their catch, though the fate of it is unknown at this time. The ship is going to be escorted out of Thai waters and released. No fines, no arrests. They are being let go despite all the evidence in the world that they are poachers. It sounds like the Vidal Armadores has thrown enough money around to get their ship and their men out of Thailand with nothing more than a "Don't come back" notice. Also reported is that the Kunlun arrived in port with zero nets or other fishing gear. Two months ago, New Zealand authorities photographed the illegal fishing equipment on the Kunlun. Chances are, the crew of the ship dumped the net somewhere in the ocean which means that there is probably a massive (estimated up to 100kilometers (62 miles) in length) net is floating aimlessly killing an untold number of fish and other marine animals. Thailand has for whatever reason failed to apprehend these criminals and once again I'd like to say that there is egg on the face of Australia for not arresting these criminals when they were illegally fishing in Australian waters.

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