THE Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker, marked the 22nd day of its pursuit of the Interpol-listed poaching vessel, Thunder, yesterday, January 8, and in doing so, the conservation ship has broken the record for the world’s longest sea chase of a poaching vessel.
The ships are now approximately 1,000 nautical miles south-east of South Africa.
The previous record of 21 days was set in 2003 by the Australian patrol vessel, Southern Supporter, when it chased the Uruguay-flagged Viarsa I across the Southern Ocean. The Viarsa I fled after it was accused of poaching Patagonian toothfish inside Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
Bob Barker Captain, Peter Hammarstedt, stated: “Eleven years ago, the Southern Supporter bravely embarked on a high-seas chase like no other in history, to defend our oceans from those who would profit from its destruction. Today, the Bob Barker pays homage to their efforts, as we continue to chase the wanted poaching vessel, Thunder, further away from their hunting grounds in the shadowlands of the Southern Ocean.
“The poachers have led us through treacherous ice and stormy seas, and continue to try to out-will us at every turn. But we remain undeterred, stead-fast in our pursuit, resolute in our commitment to ensure that these poachers receive justice for the devastation they have left in their wake.”
Meanwhile, the Sea Shepherd ship, Sam Simon, continues mammoth operations to retrieve illegal gillnets, abandoned by the Thunder inside the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living resources (CCAMLR) area of management, when it fled from the Bob Barker on December 17.
The Sam Simon completed the retrieval of the first illegal gillnet on December 29. In an operation that spanned five days, the crew hauled 25 kilometres of illegal gillnet out of the Antarctic waters. Over 200 toothfish and other marine creatures were found dead in the net.
Retrieval of the second “monster”, which measured 19 kilometres, was completed on Tuesday. While slightly shorter than the first net, the “monster” net contained over twice the catch of the previous haul. Approximately 500 toothfish, and hundreds of other marine creatures were found dead, many in advanced stages of decomposition.
Having successfully retrieved two illegal gillnets, Sam Simon Captain, Sid Chakravarty, has confirmed the presence of at least two more gillnets in the area.
He said: “The Thunder has been mocking CCAMLR’s conservation measures and its Member states for over ten years. The poaching vessel has covered the entire Banzare Bank with gillnets exceeding 100 kilometres in length.
“These curtains of death, criss-crossing the seabed in every direction, is decimating vulnerable toothfish populations and the Antarctic Marine Ecosystem. In addition to this, we know that the bycatch numbers of these banned gillnets are equal to the targeted catch numbers; a statistic that would be an outrage in any regulated fishery.”
The use of gillnets has been outlawed by CCAMLR since 2004, and the Commission has specifically expressed concerns regarding the impact of this fishing method on the marine ecosystems of Antarctica.
A known poaching vessel, the Nigerian-flagged Thunder was issued with an Interpol Purple Notice following a joint effort by Norwegian, New Zealand and Australian authorities, and is currently included on CCAMLR’s black-list of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing operators.
Operation Icefish is Sea Shepherd’s 11th Southern Ocean Defence Campaign, and the first to target IUU toothfish fishing operators in the waters of Antarctica.
Japanese whaling fleet departs for scouting mission. Set to return to Southern Ocean slaughter in 2015-16.
Meanwhile, the Japanese whaling fleet heads for the Southern Ocean in a blatant disregard for both the International Court of Justice ruling and global sentiment against the slaughter of whales. The fleet this year will conduct ‘non-lethal research’ and begin the preparations to return to full scale whaling next year.
“The Japanese whale poachers have once again departed for the Southern Ocean. Clearly this year’s expedition is nothing but a scouting trip in preparation for the resumption of poaching operations in the 2015/2016 season. Despite the verdict at the International Court of Justice in the Hague that prohibits Japan from killing whales under the JARPA II program, Japan has decided to circumvent the court’s decision and continue to flaunt international regulations.
“It seems the Japanese whaling fleet is hell-bent to ignore the wishes of the international community and to deepen their isolation on the topic of whaling. What should have ended continues, a criminal operation funded by Government subsidies,” Captain Alex Cornelissen, Chief Executive Officer, Sea Shepherd Global, said.
“The publication of the new research plan combined with the scouting exercise for this year is proof that Japan has just one motive to be in Antarctica and that is to kill whales.
“International commissions, courts and sentiments have seemingly no effect on their intent to seek out and destroy this safe haven for the whales at the bottom of the world. Japan stands alone in their quest to see the bang of the grenade-tipped harpoons triumph over the silence of harmony in this great whale sanctuary,” Sid Chakravarty, Captain of the MY Sam Simon, said.