Yesterday, at approximately 2300 hours AEDT, at 61˚ 32’ South, 075˚ 27’ East, the wanted poaching vessel, Thunder, attempted a hazardous escape from the Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker, by fleeing at speed through a field of pack-ice.
The Nigerian-flagged Thunder, which has been issued with and Interpol Purple Notice, and which is on the CCAMLR black-list of illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) vessels due to its poaching activities, led Captain Peter Hammarstedt and his international crew of 28 volunteers on a three-hour long chase through the ice-field.
The Bob Barker was forced to break-through ice in order to maintain the hot pursuit. Captain Hammarstedt said, “At times the ice was almost impassable. I had to use my ship as a snow plough in order to break-through and continue chase.”
The incident comes two days after the Bob Barker intercepted the poaching vessel engaged in illegal fishing activities inside the CCAMLR area. Thunder is known to utilise gillnets – a method of fishing that has been outlawed by CCAMLR since 2004.
On locating the Thunder two days ago, Captain Hammarstedt notified Interpol, CCAMLR, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Fishing Management Authority of the vessel’s activities. As yet, there is been no response to these reports.
Captain Hammarstedt has called on the Australian government to assist with the arrest of the illegal vessel. He said, “We have caught these poachers in blatant violation of international fishing regulations. We have documented their poaching activities, we have reported them, and we are ready to hand them over to the authorities. It is not the responsibility of Sea Shepherd to uphold CCAMLR regulations, but in the absence of legal action from Australia, we remain the only sheriff in town.”
IUU (Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported) fishing of toothfish continues inside the CCAMLR region, despite the Commission’s efforts to eliminate this threat to the Antarctic ecosystem. Currently six operators, including Thunder, are known to be involved in IUU fishing of toothfish inside the area.
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.
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