In 'Epic' Chase, Sea Shepherd Vows to Pursue Poachers to 'Ends of the Earth'
The international marine wildlife conservation organization Sea Shepherd is engaged in “epic” pursuit of an alleged poaching vessel in the Southern Ocean, about 2,300 nautical miles from South Africa, or about 80 nautical miles outside of Australian Antarctic waters.
The dramatic chase, which has gone on for 22 days, is thought to be the world’s longest sea chase of an illegal fishing vessel.
On December 17, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Bob Barker intercepted a known poaching vessel, the Nigerian-flagged Thunder, a trawler on the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources’s black list of illegal operators. The Thunder is known to utilize gillnets in its poaching operations—a method of fishing outlawed by CCAMLR due to the risks it poses to marine mammals, sea turtles, and other oceanic species.
The Telegraph reports that “[t]he poachers, who are on an Interpol wanted list for illegal fishing, were on the hunt for the endangered Patagonian toothfish, whose buttery fillets are sold in high-end restaurants as Chilean Sea Bass.”
Once the ship was within radio distance, Bob Barker captain Peter Hammarstedt ordered the Thunder to Fremantle, Australia, to report to Australian law enforcement authorities.
“I have notified the Captain of the Thunder and his crew that they have been placed under citizen’s arrest; that they must cease their illegal fishing activities immediately and report to the Australian authorities,” he said at the time. “Should they ignore this order, I have notified the Thunder that Sea Shepherd has no choice but to directly intervene in order to obstruct their continued illegal activities.”
And intervene it did. The trawler failed to heed Hammarstedt’s order and instead attempted to evade its pursuers by sailing through waters dotted with ice floes and beset by heavy storms.
Bob Barker claims to be currently on the stern of the alleged poachers, some 1,000 nautical miles southeast of South Africa.
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