Epic hunt for toothfish poachers ends in the Atlantic

It has been an action-packed season in the Southern Ocean chasing big illegal fishing boats. Six bandit ships wanted by the Interpol are on the run, three of which have been either intercepted, detained, or sunk into the depths of the sea. Sea Shepherd Operation Icefish ended Monday with the sinking of The Thunder. Viking is now in the hands of Malaysian authorities and Kunlun await’s Thailand’s verdict. Re-posting my earlier stories:

‘The Thunder’ sinks in Sao Tome

The Thunder's last few moments before it's gone forever. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

Sea Shepherd’s Operation Icefish ended early this week with the bizarre sinking of Interpol-wanted vessel, The Thunder, inside the Exclusive Economic Zone of Sao Tome.

After 110 days of action, chasing the elusive vessel, Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson said the campaign has accomplished its mission. The longest hot pursuit of a poaching vessel in maritime history, Operation Icefish has been “the most successful intervention against high-seas poaching in the history of anti-poaching operations,” the captain said.

Thunder, the most notorious of the so-called “Bandit 6, was sunk deliberately by its crew as they clapped and cheered, media reports said. It was left with clear signs that the vessel was intentionally scuttled. The hatches were not closed to maintain buoyancy, but instead, the doors and hatches were tied open, along with the fishhold. The vessel then went down 4,000 meters below.

Watson is convinced the vessel was scuttled as a deliberate act of desperation. It was allegedly owned by unscrupulous and wealthy fishing companies based in Galicia, Spain.

According to Watson, the illegal toothfish industry linked to Spanish companies has suffered a severe financial blow, and faces the face criminal courts in Malaysia, Thailand, and Sao Tome for its illegal activities, including illegal fishing, illegal registration, and false declarations. Deliberately scuttling a ship in the territorial waters of Sao Tome is also a crime. READ MORE…

Australian gov’t seizes toothfish poacher Kunlun

The Australian government has finally decided to do something about illegal fishing vessels. And when Australian Customs officials recently took out their patrol ship they met Kunlun, a notorious and elusive poaching vessel cruising on its way with a massive haul of Patagonian toothfish.

Kunlun was intercepted west of Cocos Island (Keeling) on Thursday. The Sea Shepherd suspects the vessel was en route from the Antarctic to Southeast Asia to offload its illegal catch. READ MORE…

Malaysia detains notorious ‘Viking’ poaching vessel

Another major blow has been dealt to illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean with the detention of the Nigerian-flagged poaching vessel, Viking, in Malaysia – bringing a total of three notorious illegal fishing vessels and their crew in for interrogation this fishing season. Nigerian-flagged the Thunder was de-registered last week making it officially stateless. Kunlun, meanwhile, is in Thailand’s detention.

Held for violations of Malaysian maritime law, Malaysian authorities have indicated that the Viking will also be investigated for alleged illegal, unregulated, unreported (IUU) fishing violations. READ MORE….

The Thunder is scuttled and sunk into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Sao Tome.

Advertisements

Australia urges cooperation on illegal fishing

Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton urged the international community to forge cooperation to combat Illegal, Undocumented, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing following the arrest of poaching vessel, Kunlun, in Thailand.

Dutton said Australia works with international partners through the Regional Plan of Action with Southeast Asian countries to address illegal fishing.

Australia alerted Southeast Asian nations about the expected arrival of Kunlun into their ports at any time. The vessel was found anchored off Tapaonoi island, near Phuket, and is now being detained, according to a local report by Phuketwan. Phuket Marine Police authorities dispatched teams to gather information so that investigation will commenced shortly.

Kunlun, taken on 7 January 2015 in Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Area. (Photo: Interpol)

Dutton praised the arrest and detention, and said, “This is an excellent example of interagency and international cooperation achieving tangible results.”

US, EU address Illegal Fishing

In the US, the Presidential Task Force on IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud released its action plan that sets out the aggressive steps to curb IUU fishing. The plan is based on the recommendations of the Task Forced made in December 2014 that federal agencies will take both domestically and internationally .

The plan identifies actions that will strengthen enforcement, create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations, and create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce.

WWF considers the action plan as a “crucial win” for the European Union and the global community to confront illegal fishing. The conservation group also said the plan will further boost the EU’s strong action to fight against illegal fishing, which is estimated to cost between EUR 8 billion and EUR 19 billion annually.

Eszter Hidas, EU Policy Officer for WWF’s Illegal Fishing programme, said the world’s two biggest fish importers seem now determined to close their doors to any illegal fish product.

IUU fishing represents 11 million to 26 million tonnes of catch, which accounts for 13-31 per cent of global catch, according to WFF.

Michele Kuruc, vice president of ocean policy at WWF-US, also said that the action plan marks “a decisive shift” in US policy. The plan is a way to put black market enterprises on notice that the country is closing its doors to their illegally caught seafood, she added.

IUU

Australia calls for high level cooperation

Australian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture Senator Richard Colbeck has been calling for a high level of regional and international cooperation and reiterated the need of mapping out an action plan.  He said IUU fishing is a global issue and it is “great to see this level of international cooperation to protect our marine resources and eliminate illegal fishing.”

The Kunlun was intercepted by the Royal New Zealand Navy in the Southern Ocean in January, but eluded arrest. The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) was patrolling the seas in February and caught the vessel in the Indian Ocean while on its way north. Australian Customs boarded Kunlun to verify the flag State of the vessel.

Kunlun has a long history of IUU fishing in the Southern Ocean and is the subject of an INTERPOL Purple Notice seeking information on the individuals and networks that own, operate, and profit from the actions of the vessel.

The Kunlun attempted to avoid detection by entering the Thai port under the name Taishan and claiming to be flagged to Indonesia.

“The Australian Government will continue to provide support as necessary. It will continue to take effective action, together with our international counterparts, in order to send a strong message that IUU fishing will not be tolerated,” Senator Colbeck said.

Follow @DGreenJournal
Blog Link