A YOUNG marine activist climbed onto the mooring line of the Antarctic toothfish vessel, Antarctic Discovery, this morning, 23 June, and hung a protest banner in frigid conditions as it was docked in Hobart.
Bille Raffety, 19, from the Huon Valley, suspended herself from the vessel’s mooring line to protest its presence in Australia’s Antarctic gateway city.
Dock workers then cut the line and dropped the activist into the freezing water where she was picked up by other activists involved in the protest.
The vessel, owned by Hobart-based Australian Longline, has just returned from fishing the sub-Antarctic toothfish populations off Australia’s World Heritage-listed Macquarie, Heard, and McDonald Islands.
The Bob Brown Foundations’ Lead Antarctic Campaigner Alistair Allan fervently believes that the Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish are not sustainable fisheries that can provide food security and the Antarctic Discovery is decimating a species we know little about.
“This vessel, despite efforts to appear sustainable, is targeting a species that is sold as a “luxury” product,” Mr Allan said.
“Rather, they are a status meal in five-star hotels and fancy restaurants.”
Mr Allan said the fish is red-listed by countless NGOs around the world due to its position as an Apex Predator and its overfishing in the 1980s and 1990s.
“It is a fish we should not be pillaging,” Mr Allan continued.
“The toothfish industry touts their Antarctic and sub-Antarctic operations as one of the world’s most regulated fisheries, but with most of the Earth’s fisheries in rapid decline or near collapse, we cannot trust that the toothfish is not destined for the same fate.”
The young protestor who took a plunge in the icy waters, Billie, said Australian Longline vessels can set as many as 60,000 hooks on tens of kilometres of lines.
“The Antarctic Discovery, or rather, Antarctic Destroyer, is responsible for deep-sea devastation and disturbance of the Southern Ocean,” Billie said.
“These skewers rake the delicate Southern Ocean ecosystem, catching anything in their path.
“Using 60,000 hooks in one of the world’s last wild places is obscene.”
Mr Allan continued: “Hobart claims to be an Antarctic custodian but how can this be when we allow such destructive vessels in our port?
“In a very short amount of time, industrial whaling and sealing took both species to the brink of extinction in the Antarctic.
“We cannot allow the same to happen to toothfish,” Mr Allan added.
“The public has a right to know that Hobart is being used as a base for expanding the looting of the Antarctic.”