PERREAULT Magazine SEPT | OCT 2016 - Page 63

Perreault Magazine - 63-

© Simon Ager/ Sea

Poachers operating off the coast of West Africa are discovering that there is now a new sheriff in town and their wild and lawless plundering days may be coming to an end.

Operation Albacore in West Africa is one of many campaigns that Sea Shepherd is undertaking with cooperative partnerships within government enforcement agencies. This arrangement allows Sea Shepherd to provide ships and volunteers to oppose poachers with the authority to undertake arrests and seizures.

It has also been very satisfying to the volunteer Sea Shepherd crew off the West coast of Africa. The presence of armed government enforcement agents onboard allows the crew to not only capture and detain poaching vessels but also to cut captured non-targeted species from legally set nets. On the last patrol, the crew rescued two Bryde’s whales, four whale sharks, a sunfish and four sea turtles.

Earlier in the year the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin escorted the toothfish poaching vessel Viking into Indonesian waters where it was seized and sunk by the Indonesian authorities. The Steve Irwin immediately returned to sea and caught a six-ship Chinese drift net fleet operating in the Indian Ocean. Captain Sid Chakravarty and his crew chased the fleet out of the Indian Ocean, through the South China Sea and into a Chinese port where the Chinese authorities accepted the evidence and documentation gathered by Sea Shepherd.

Drift nets have been illegal since 1992. Sea Shepherd confiscated miles of nets finding hundreds of entangled dead sharks, sea turtles, fish and seals that had died horribly in these curtains of death.

Operation Drift Net was the first time any non-governmental agency had ever challenged a Chinese fishing fleet in their own waters. The pursuit from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea was long and challenging but it became quite tense upon approach to the disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese drift netters, with the Steve Irwin in hot pursuit set course towards the islands knowing there would be a Chinese Naval presence.

There was indeed. The fishermen sent a call for help saying they were being chased by pirates. The Chinese Navy called Captain Chakravarty on the Steve Irwin to ask him to identify himself. He did and explained that the Chinese vessels had been caught using illegal drift nets and the documentation had already been sent to the Chinese government. Much to the distress of the poachers, the Chinese Navy granted the Steve Irwin permission to proceed.