Back on Anti-Poaching Patrol after Three Months in Self-Quarantine

Wednesday, 15 Jul, 2020

After three months of self-quarantine measures taken to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Sea Shepherd ships Bob Barker and Sam Simon have left port and are headed back on patrol in waters off the African continent, as Sea Shepherd resumes government partnerships to curtail incidents of illegal fishing which are believed to have spread during the global pandemic. 

The crew of the Sam Simon bid farewell to the Bob Barker as it leaves port. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd

While data suggests that the global fishing activity is down by 10% since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, concern has grown that the suspension of fisheries observer programs—and a reduction in controls made possible by at-sea patrols—has resulted in an increase of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activity.

On March 30th, Sea Shepherd Global -- on the advice of the Sea Shepherd Medical Advisory Board -- decided to self-quarantine Bob Barker, Sam Simon and Ocean Warrior in port for the safety of crews and in an effort to flatten the curve in solidarity with healthcare professionals around the world. That time in port has been well-spent, undertaking critical maintenance work while also creating policies and procedures to safeguard Sea Shepherd crews, government partners and fishers for when patrols to stop IUU fishing could safely resume.

Sam Simon small boats. Photo by Flavio Gasperini/Sea Shepherd

The departure of Bob Barker and Sam Simon from port marks the conclusion of a mammoth effort by Sea Shepherd’s captains, crews, staff, donors and supporters to prepare two vessels for anti-poaching patrols despite the many logistical challenges posed by lockdowns and travel restrictions. While the destinations of both vessels cannot yet be released, the resumption of patrols is welcome news to wildlife, marine parks and artisanal fishermen whose livelihoods are threatened by industrial fishing.  

Captain Alistair Allan on the bridge of the Sam Simon. Photo Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd

“As countries continue to battle the spread of COVID-19, Sea Shepherd has received reports of increased fishing activity in the waters of countries that we’re proud to have partnered with in the fight against IUU fishing. COVID-19 has created a law enforcement vacuum at sea, one that Sea Shepherd can now assist our government partners to fill thanks to the hard work of our captains and crew—and the generosity of our donors who have continued to support Sea Shepherd during these uncertain times."

Captain Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns for Sea Shepherd
Dolphins spotted off the bow of the ship. Photo by Michael Rauch/Sea Shepherd.

“As our new reality is opening our eyes to the need to protect nature, Sea Shepherd’s passionate crew is more determined than ever to combat IUU fishing. Together with our government partners we will shut down illegal fishing and the greedy operators responsible for the continued destruction of our natural world” says Captain Alex Cornelissen, CEO of Sea Shepherd Global.

Since 2016, Sea Shepherd has been working in collaboration and cooperation with the governments of Gabon, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tanzania, Benin, Namibia and The Gambia to combat IUU fishing by providing the use of civilian offshore patrol vessels to African partner countries so that authorities can enforce fisheries regulations and conservation laws in their sovereign waters. To date, the unique partnerships have resulted in the arrest of 52 vessels for illegal fishing and other fisheries crimes.

Donate today to help fund these important campaigns as we return to the frontlines!

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