Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Illegal Chilean Sea Bass Fishing Could Be Coming to an End, Thanks to Sea Shepherd

By Taylor Hill

Sea Shepherd's hunting of poaching vessels in the remote Southern Ocean is not as well known as its efforts to stop Japanese whale hunters, but for one species it's a lifesaver.

The deep-sea-dwelling Patagonian toothfish that inhabits the region has been a lucrative target for illegal fishing. Six vessels, which Sea Shepherd has dubbed the Bandit 6, have been raking in big bucks skirting international fishing regulations. The ships are capable of catching more than $1 million worth of toothfish—popularly known as Chilean sea bass—before returning to port.

Sea Shepherd vessels the Atlas Cove (left) and the Bob Barker patrolling the Southern Ocean. Photo credit: Simon Ager / Sea Shepherd Global

The boats have operated mostly unencumbered in the remote expanse of the Southern Ocean, often avoiding capture by flying under “flags of convenience" that hide the vessel's ownership and make prosecution difficult. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources has put the ships on its blacklist.

A toothfish—known as 'white gold' by poachers—caught in an illegal gill net. Photo credit: Jeff Wirth / Sea Shepherd Global

“What made them stand out was their brazen return to Antarctica, year after year, in spite of being repeatedly spotted by customs vessels and other legal operators," Sid Chakravarty, captain of the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin, said. “We realized that the vessels were deliberately exploiting the loopholes in international law and acting with a purpose, fully aware of the immunity they enjoyed."

But thanks in part to Sea Shepherd's two-year-long "Operation Icefish" campaign, only one vessel of the Bandit 6 is still in operation. Officials in Senegal on Tuesday detained the Kunlun, a toothfish-poaching vessel Sea Shepherd has been pursuing for more than a year.

In February 2015, Chakravarty, who was then captain of the Sea Shepherd's vessel San Simon, chased the Kunlun for eight days out of Australian fishing waters. The boat was fishing with illegal gill nets that drag along the seabed, capturing and killing fish indiscriminately.

Sid Chakravarty, captain of the Sam Simon. Photo credit: Paul Petch / Sea Shepherd Global

A month later, the Kunlun showed up at a dock in Phuket, Thailand, trying to off-load 182 tons of toothfish the ship was reporting as grouper fish. The vessel escaped customs after five months in port and showed up in Senegal in February, renamed the Asian Warrior.

Read page 1

“It is incredibly satisfying to know that the Kunlun, which was chased out of the Southern Ocean by my vessel in February 2015, has been unable to resume its illegal fishing operations," Chakravarty said. “The work done by Sea Shepherd completes and at times fills the gaps in the work of governments, which are restricted by outdated legal conventions."

The poaching vessel the Viking is wanted for a decade's worth of illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean. Photo credit: CCAMLR

The capture of the Kunlun leaves the poaching vessel the Viking as the lone bandit on the high seas.

According to Sea Shepherd, the Viking is suspected to be fishing in Antarctica, once again using banned gill nets in the region. Chakravarty and the crew of the Steve Irwin are searching for the Viking.

“Once the vessel is located, the role of the [Sea Shepherd] is twofold," Chakravarty said. “One, to afford immediate protection to marine wildlife by blockading the illegal operations of the Viking and two, to embark on a pursuit of the vessel and work with international law enforcement agencies to ensure the vessel is detained upon arrival in port. Using the evidence collected, Sea Shepherd's aim is to aid and assist ongoing investigations with regards to the Viking."

That plan worked in 2014, when Sea Shepherd Capt. Peter Hammarstedt and the crew aboard the 788-ton Bob Barker embarked on a 110-day, 10,000-nautical-mile ocean pursuit of the Nigerian-flagged boat Thunder, which was illegally fishing in the Southern Ocean.

The poaching vessel the Thunder sinks as Sea Shepherd vessels watch from a safe distance. Photo credit: Simon Ager / Sea Shepherd Global

The Thunder, considered the most notorious poaching vessel among the Bandit 6, ended up sinking at sea, with the crew and captain rescued by Sea Shepherd. In October 2015, the Thunder's captain and two senior crew members were found guilty of multiple charges of illegal fishing, given 32 to 36 months of jail time and fined more than $17 million by a court in São Tomé and Príncipe—an island nation that lies off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea.

“The aim of this mission is to locate [the Viking] and replicate the successes of the previous missions and to deliver a final blow to the illicit toothfish trade," Chakravarty said.

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate TakePart.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Gruesome Tumors on Sea Turtles Linked to Climate Change and Pollution

Find Out How These Two Sisters Convinced Bali to Ban Plastic Bags by 2018

Starving Sea Lion Takes Refuge at Upscale San Diego Restaurant

4 Year Global Journey Ends in Must-See Documentary: 'A Plastic Ocean'

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

People relax in Victoria Gardens with the Houses of Parliament in the background in central London, as a heatwave hit the continent with temperatures touching 40 degrees Celsius on June 25, 2020. NIKLAS HALLE'N / AFP via Getty Images

The chance that UK summer days could hit the 40 degree Celsius mark on the thermometer is on the rise, a new study from the country's Met Office Hadley Centre has found.

Read More Show Less
A crowd of people congregate along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida on June 26, 2020, amid a surge in coronavirus cases. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP / Getty Images

By Melissa Hawkins

After sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States. Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others. Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.

Read More Show Less
A Chesapeake Energy drilling rig is located on farmland near Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, on March 20, 2012. Melanie Stetson Freeman / The Christian Science Monitor / Getty Images

By Eoin Higgins

Climate advocates pointed to news Sunday that fracking giant Chesapeake Energy was filing for bankruptcy as further evidence that the fossil fuel industry's collapse is being hastened by the coronavirus pandemic and called for the government to stop propping up businesses in the field.

Read More Show Less
Youth participate in the Global Climate Strike in Providence, Rhode Island on September 20, 2019. Gabriel Civita Ramirez / CC by 2.0

By Neil King and Gabriel Borrud

Human beings all over the world agreed to strict limitations to their rights when governments made the decision to enter lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis. Many have done it willingly on behalf of the collective. So why can't this same attitude be seen when tackling climate change?

Read More Show Less
A crowd awaits the evening lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota on June 23, 2012. Mindy / Flickr

Fire experts have already criticized President Trump's planned fireworks event for this Friday at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial as a dangerous idea. Now, it turns out the event may be socially irresponsible too as distancing guidelines and mask wearing will not be enforced at the event, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
Mountains of produce, including eggs, milk and onions, are going to waste as the COVID-19 pandemic shutters restaurants, restricts transport, limits what workers are able to do and disrupts supply chains. United States government work

By Emma Charlton

Gluts of food left to rot as a consequence of coronavirus aren't just wasteful – they're also likely to damage the environment.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The gates of the unusually low drought-affected Carraizo Dam are seen closed in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico on June 29, 2020. RICARDO ARDUENGO / AFP via Getty Images)

Puerto Rico's governor declared a state of emergency on Monday after a severe drought on the island left 140,000 people without access to running water, despite the necessary role that hand washing and hygiene plays in stopping the novel coronavirus, as The Independent reported.

Read More Show Less