The Bob Barker, a Sea Shepherd ship and former whaler, has chased a poacher ship over 1,000 nautical miles in what is now the longest sea chase in recorded history. The epic pursuit has taken the Bob Barker through ice and rain storms, but they refuse to let up. The Sea Shepherd group caught the poachers in an Antarctic conservation area illegally fishing endangered Patagonian Toothfish, known as Chilean Sea Bass in high-end restaurants.
The Telegraph reports that the chase began on December 17, when the crew of the Bob Barker found the poacher ship, a Nigerian trawler called the Thunder, while it was actively fishing. The Sea Shepherd crew radioed the vessel to tell them they were engaged in illegal fishing, which the poacher initially tried to deny.
But then, the Thunder tried to slip away from the Sea Shepherd by cruising into bad weather fronts on two occasions while travelling through the Indian Ocean.
At one point, the Thunder led the Shepherd ship into ice. According to Phys.org, the captain had to use the Bob Barker as a “500-tonne steel snow plough to get through.”
The crew have vowed to pursue the poachers until they are arrested by police. The captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, gave a dramatic speech to the AFP about the event.
“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.”
The full statement can be found here.
The Sea Shepherd crew hope to pursue the Thunder into a port, so the proper authorities can arrest the poachers. Interpol already wants to apprehend the crew for illegal fishing.
The international police organization reports that the Thunder has had three names in the past and used both Nigerian and Mongolian flags to “avoid detection of illegal fishing activities.” The ship is part of a small fleet of three illegal fishing vessels called the Bandit 6. The Thunder is considered the most notorious, and Hammarstedt is calling on the New Zealand government to take action against the other two. The government has intercepted the ships, but they still need to arrest the large vessels.
In the meantime, another Sea Shepherd ship, known as the Sam Simon, has spent weeks hauling in 27 miles worth of gill nets — nets hung vertically, so fish swim into them and get caught by their gills. Sid Chakravarty, the captain of the Sam Simon, gave some more details.
“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, are decimating vulnerable toothfish populations and the Antarctic marine ecosystem.”
Bandit 6 has created a lot of work for the Sea Shepherd, and it’s still not clear when this chapter will end.
[Image Credit: Saberwyn/Wikimedia Commons]