Sea Shepherd’s Statement on Japan’s Decision to Commercially Slaughter Whales.
Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd & Barbara Veiga
Los Angeles, California – December 26th, 2018 – Since 2002, Sea Shepherd has opposed Japanese whaling operations in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary with expeditions to Antarctic waters first in 2002 followed by continuous campaigns from 2005 until 2017.
During this period over 6,000 whales were saved from the harpoons of Japanese commercial whalers posing as research whalers by Sea Shepherd interventions.
In 2017, the Japanese government began to invest millions of dollars in security efforts to prevent Sea Shepherd from engaging their fleets. These security measures included military grade real time surveillance.
Although this prevented Sea Shepherd from returning to the Southern Ocean in 2018, it also placed Japan in a position of expending huge resources on continuous security.
In other words, the cost of preventing Sea Shepherd intervention became very expensive.
This and the verdict of the International Court of Justice that exposed Japanese research as fraudulent, coupled with worldwide condemnation of their Southern Ocean activities has in the opinion of Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd led to this decision to declare they will openly undertake commercial whaling activities.
The scheme to pose as researchers will now be dropped and that means there can be absolutely no justification for hunting whales in an internationally established whale sanctuary. This will be the last year of Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean.
Sea Shepherd’s objective of ending the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary has been realized. This is a victory for the campaign to make the Southern Ocean a whaling free zone.
Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd & Marianna Baldo
If Japan decides to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) it will allow the IWC to pass the motion to establish the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary thus effectively ending whaling in the Southern Hemisphere.
Japan will now join Norway and Iceland as rogue outlaw whaling nations in the North Pacific and the North Atlantic.
The Whale Wars in the Southern Ocean will soon be over. The focus now must be the Northern Hemisphere.
Sea Shepherd welcomes this announcement by Japan and views it as a positive development.
Captain Paul Watson issued a statement saying, “We are delighted to see the end of whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We are delighted that we will soon have a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary and we look forward to continuing to oppose the three remaining pirate whaling nations of Norway, Japan and Iceland. Whaling as a ‘legal’ industry has ended. All that remains is to mop up the pirates.”
The owner and captain of the Malaysian-flagged fishing vessel (F/V) Buah Naga 1 that was boarded and arrested by Tanzanian law enforcement agents as part of Operation Jodari have pleaded guilty to the charge of Unlawful Possession of Shark Fins in a plea agreement with Tanzanian prosecutors.
Captain of the Buah Naga 1 and Tanzanian Police Inspector during January 25th arrest. Photo Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.
The captain, Mr. Han Ming Chuan of a Taiwan, has been in custody since January 2018 when he was charged with five crimes: Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Acts, Unlawful Possession of Shark Fins, Pollution of the Marine Environment, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm and Unlawful Possession of Ammunition. The owner, Mr. Dato Seri Lee Yee Jiat, and agent, Mr. Abubakar Salum Hassan, joined the F/V Buah Naga 1 in police custody after they were subsequently arrested in June.
On December 4th the defendants reached a plea agreement with the Tanzanian Director of Public Prosecutions to avoid trial, pleading guilty to one of the five charges: Unlawful Possession of Shark Fins.
The High Court of Tanzania sentenced the three defendants to twenty years imprisonment or a fine of one billion Tanzanian Shillings ($435,000 USD). All three have been remanded to Lilungu Prison in Mtwara to begin serving their custodial sentences. If the fine is paid then the sentence will be suspended.
The High Court has handed over the seized shark fins to the Tanzanian Deep Sea Fishing Authority for destruction. The F/V Bua Naga 1 remains in in Mtwara.
When the F/V Buah Naga 1 was first boarded on January 25th by Tanzanian law enforcement agents working on board the Sea Shepherd vessel M/Y Ocean Warrior, inspectors discovered that the vessel was carrying an illegal cargo of shark fins. An unlicensed firearm, a 9mm Beretta pistol, was found in the captain’s cabin. According to the Indonesian fishers working on board, the firearm was regularly used to threaten them to work. If no fish was caught, then the Indonesian crew would not be fed.
“Sea Shepherd applauds the Tanzanian government for the successful prosecution of the F/V Buah Naga 1 and for the strong message of deterrence that the Tanzanian High Court has sent to shark fin poachers everywhere. As shark populations plummet globally, Tanzania is rising as an international leader in the fight against illegal fishing." --Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns for Sea Shepherd Global
Operation Jodari is a joint partnership between Sea Shepherd, Fish-i Africa and the government of Tanzania to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Sea Shepherd’s flagship vessel the M/Y Steve Irwin has conducted multiple campaigns in defense of the world’s oceans, from protecting pilot whales in the Faroes, blue fin tuna in the Mediterranean, and humpback whales off the Kimberley coast, to shutting down six illegal Chinese drift-netters in the South Indian Ocean, and six illegal tooth fish poachers in the Southern Ocean.
Not least, it has conducted nine Antarctic whale defence campaigns in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary helping save over 6,000 whales from the illegal Japanese whaling fleet. The Steve Irwin has safeguarded one of the last large intact marine ecosystems on the planet in the Great Australian Bight (knocking out BP and Chevron), most recently visiting the Great Barrier Reef in opposition of the Adani coal mine.
Prior to Sea Shepherd obtaining the M/Y Steve Irwin, it served as a Scottish fisheries patrol vessel, built in 1975. So, in essence, the Steve has been defending marine wildlife its whole life. Sea Shepherd has always taken great pride and appreciation in getting permission from the Irwin family to rename our ship the Steve Irwin back in 2007, in continuing the legacy and honoring Australia’s great wildlife warrior.
Sadly, our Steve is at the end of its life and we need to retire the vessel. We have reached out to many organisations and governments to look at options such as turning the Steve into a dive site or donating it to a maritime museum. However, with none of these options eventuating or being practical, the Steve Irwin will be recycled.
Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson, stated: “On December 7, 2007, Teri Irwin and I launched the M/V Steve Irwin, a vessel that would be our flagship for the next decade. It has been my honor to have been captain of this vessel for so many successful high seas campaigns. The lives we have saved and the difference we have made with this vessel has been awesome. We worked the ship hard, through horrific storms and crushing ice and after eleven years, our engineers have determined that the Steve Irwin is no longer safe for sea.
"It is simply not wise to risk the lives of our crew beyond the boundaries of practicality. Despite the many risks we have taken over the years we have learned when to hold a ship and when to retire a ship and regrettably the time to retire the Steve Irwin is now. Battle scarred and damaged, regrettably she must be retired, but the memories, the campaign victories and the lives saved will be the lasting legacy of a ship that was as valiant and courageous as her namesake."
Captain Alex Cornelissen, CEO of Sea Shepherd Global, stated: “I will always remember the first voyage of the Steve Irwin (called the Robert Hunter at that time), after having found the vessel in Rosyth, Scotland we prepared the ship for active service in Neptune’s Navy. We sailed down the Atlantic and through the Straights of Magellan to the first Antarctic anti-whaling campaign in which we had a speed advantage over the whalers. The Steve Irwin was the game changer and stood at the base of Sea Shepherd’s following Antarctic campaigns, saving over 6,000 whales."
Jeff Hansen, Managing Director, Sea Shepherd Australia stated: “Having sailed six campaigns personally on the Irwin, I have many fond priceless experiences and cherished memories that I take with me to the grave. So, it’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to our flagship the Steve Irwin, for the Steve has facilitated Sea Shepherd in creating lasting victories and legacies for our oceans. A global and Australian iconic vessel that has defended whales off the Kimberley, the Great Australian Bight, the Great Barrier Reef and off Antarctica," Jeff continued.
"The Steve Irwin’s final journey will be to a Hong Kong Convention approved scrapping facility, meaning it meets international labor and environmental regulations. In essence, Sea Shepherd was able to further extend the life of the Irwin from a Scottish Fisheries patrol vessel to today since we purchased it back in 2007. Now in line with Sea Shepherd’s environmental ethics and standards the Irwin will be recycled.
“Sea Shepherd would like to thank and acknowledge all the wonderful people around the world that over the years volunteered, supported and funded the Steve Irwin on its vital global missions, that had a piece of their hearts filled with the hope and courage that the Steve represented, and with each campaign Sea Shepherd sailed in defense of the oceans, our supporters spirits always sailed with us.
"Together, with the Steve Irwin, we have made history, saving hundreds of thousands of marine animals in defense of our oceans, humanity's primary life support."
In a joint operation with the Liberian Ministry of National Defense to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Republic of Liberia, West Africa, Sea Shepherd assisted the Liberian Coast Guard in the arrest of a foreign-flagged industrial trawler caught plundering artisanal fishing waters.
Despite great efforts to conceal its identity, the 32-meter trawler Bonheur was intercepted by the Liberian Coast Guard on the 7th of November after crossing into Liberian waters from neighboring Côte d'Ivoire with its fishing gear in the water. On sighting the Coast Guard, the captain of the Bonheur immediately changed course, increased speed and attempted to flee Liberian waters. Using the small boat of Sea Shepherd’s ship, the Sam Simon, the Liberian Coast Guard were able to board and secure the Bonheur before it could escape justice.
The boarding team discovered that nets had been draped over the name of the vessel in a bid to conceal its identity from artisanal fishermen who could have otherwise reported the incursion to the Liberian Coast Guard.
The Bonheur was arrested fishing five nautical miles off the coast, within the six-nautical-mile area the Liberian government banned industrial trawling to protect the livelihoods of Liberia’s artisanal fishermen and the 33,000 Liberians who depend on small scale fisheries for their income. The ban, enacted through the establishment of an inshore exclusion zone (IEZ), has resulted in a noticeable increase in fish populations off the coast.
“As local small-scale artisanal fishermen notice the benefit of the IEZ through an increase in fish in populations, some foreign industrial fishing vessels see these coastal areas as piggy banks to be smashed by their industrial gear”, said Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd Global’s Director of Campaigns.
The Bonheur was subsequently escorted to port by the Sam Simon, where its cargo of fish was confiscated by Liberian authorities, and where the vessel awaits justice.
The arrest of the Bonheur marks the start of Operation Sola Stella III, the third partnership between Sea Shepherd and the Liberian Ministry of National Defense. The apprehension is the 13th arrest of a vessel for fisheries crimes in Liberian waters since February 2017.
Back in May 2015, Sea Shepherd tipped off police in the West African Republic of Cabo Verde about the presence of two black-listed illegal fishing vessels sought by Interpol hiding out in their port (read the article here). The Cabo Verde Judicial Police detained the vessels and international efforts continue to keep them grounded ever since.
Crew of the Sam Simon hauled 72 kilometres of illegal gillnet abandoned by the Thunder in Antarctic waters. Photo: Giacomo Giorgi
The two vessels, formerly known as Yongding and Songhua, are historically-linked to the infamous Vidal Armadores toothfish poaching syndicate and have made numerous attempts to change their names and registries in ill-fated bids to escape detention in the port of Mindelo.
Recent investigations by crew on board the Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon show that the toothfish poachers’ latest bid to undermine law enforcement authorities by renaming the Songhua to Pesca Cisne 2, and attempting to flag it to Chile, has failed. The vessel formerly known as Songhua remains detained in Mindelo, with the name Pesca Cisne 2 now painted over in drab colors and with no new markings to replace it. Sea Shepherd is concerned that the previous owner, Vidal Armadores, may have sold the vessel to another toothfish poaching kingpin, Florindo Gonzalez, the man who owned the Thunder, a toothfish poacher that sank after 110 days of pursuit by Sea Shepherd ships (see article here).
The Yongding, now named Atlantic Wind, also remains detained after failing in its attempt to gain a new flag from Tanzania. Since detention, the two vessels have cycled through the flags of Sierra Leone, Tanzania – and attempted to flag to Chile – all without luck.
“The continued detention of the vessels best known as Yongding and Songhua are the result of continued vigilance by Sea Shepherd, Oceana, Interpol’s Project Scale, law enforcement authorities in Cabo Verde and other international organizations and agencies, ensuring that attempts by the poachers to have the ships simply transfer hands under new names – or to hop flags – is met with immediate response. The success of Operation Icefish, which started with the sinking of the notorious Thunder, continues as these two vessels have now been stuck in port for three-and-a-half years”, said Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns for Sea Shepherd Global.
The crew of the Sam Simon confirm the poaching vessels are still in the Port of Mindelo. Photos by Emanuela Giurano/Sea Shepherd.
With the departure of the M/Y Bob Barker from Port Gentil, Gabon, Operation Albacore III, officially concluded. As on previous Operation Albacore campaigns, Gabonese Navy (Marine Nationale) and inspectors with the Gabonese fisheries enforcement agency (ANPA) were stationed on board the Bob Barker, working alongside Sea Shepherd crew to patrol Gabon’s sovereign waters.
With the legal protections of the largest network of MPAs in Africa – nine new national marine parks and 11 new aquatic reserves created by President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s initiative to conserve more than 26% of Gabon’s waters – rangers with Gabon’s National Agency of National Parks (ANPN), joined the four-months of at-sea patrols.
The crew of the M/Y Bob Barker with Captain Anteo Broadfield and Gabonese law enforcement. Photo by Flavio Gasperini/ Sea Shepherd
Three Illegal Trawlers Arrested in Aquatic Reserves
Operation Albacore III commenced with the arrest of the Hua Yi 5, a Congolese-flagged trawler caught in the act of fishing without a license in Gabonese waters in the Grand Sud du Gabon Aquatic Reserve on the border with Congo-Brazzaville.
That arrest preceded the bust of two other trawlers, this time on the northern border between Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The fishing vessels Jin Li 961 and Jin Li 962, two Chinese-flagged trawlers, were caught by the Bob Barker as they crossed from Equatorial Guinea into Gabonese waters to poach fish in the Cap Esteria Aquatic Reserve, a designated no-fishing area. On board one of the trawlers, Gabonese inspectors discovered a finned tiger shark. Both vessels remain detained in the Port of Libreville.
After the arrests on the northern and southern borders of Gabon, the patrols had their desired effect of deterring fish pirates, as no subsequent incursions were detected.
The Operation Albacore boarding team approach the Jin-Li for inspection. Photo by Tony Fenn James/Sea Shepherd.
Law enforcement agents from Gabon's National Fisheries Agency and the Gabonese Navy carry out inspections while on patrol. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.
European Commercial Fishing Vessel Busted for Shark Finning
With illegal fishing in Gabon’s aquatic reserves averted, Gabon and Sea Shepherd once again partnered with the Central African island state of São Tomé and Príncipe to patrol São Toméan waters.
Operating from on board the Bob Barker, the São Toméan Coast Guard together with São Tomé and Príncipe’s fisheries inspectors, arrested a Senegalese-flagged, but Spanish-linked, long-line fishing vessel for finning sharks.
Although the long-liner was licensed to fish for ‘tuna and similar species’, inspections revealed that the fish holds of the fishing vessel Vema were solely filled with two tons of sharks, predominately blue sharks that classified as ‘near-threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Shark fins were severed from their corresponding torsos.
São Toméan fisheries regulations that prohibit processing of sharks at-sea are conservation measures that ensure shark bodies are not discarded at sea to make room for the more valuable shark fins, therefore allowing far more sharks to be killed.
The arrest of the Vema is the fourth shark-finning bust carried out over the past two years, three of which were the direct result of joint operations between São Tomé and Príncipe and Gabon, with assistance by Sea Shepherd ships and crew.
A shark being pulled onto the fishing vessel Vema in São Tomé and Príncipe waters. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.
A container of shark fins found on board the Vema, an industrial fishing vessel arrested in São Tomé and Príncipe. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.
Deliberate Setting of Nets on Whales and Whales Sharks Banned
Three years of Operation Albacore patrols, coupled with monitoring by Gabonese fisheries observers, have revealed that some industrial purse seiners were deliberately encircling whales and whale sharks with purse seine fishing nets, knowing that tuna gather around them in search of similar sources of food.
The whales and whale sharks could be stuck in the nets for hours as the fishing operators would not open the net until the fish were on board. By that time, chances of survival were low for the panicked whales and whale sharks.
Under the new regulations, if whales or whale sharks are inadvertently caught in the purse seine net, the nets must immediately be opened, even if the fishing vessel risks losing their entire catch of tuna in the process. The regulations will save the lives of many marine mammals and whale sharks - and showcase the importance of boarding and inspections of legal operators at-sea.
A whale shark trapped in a commercial fishing net. Photo taken on Operation Albacore 1 (2016) by Lukas Erichsen/Sea Shepherd.
Sea Shepherd's small fast boat the Gemini spots a whale trapped inside a fishing net. Photo by Flavio Gasperini/Sea Shepherd.
Fish Aggerating Devices (FADs) Being Phased Out
Before Operation Albacore, fish aggregating devices, more commonly called FADs, were unregulated. A FAD is a floating object, usually made of plastic, that attracts fish. Sonar and satellite communications equipment fitted to the high-tech FAD alert fishing vessels to the presence of fish. FADs are problematic because they lead to higher numbers of by-catch, or the unintentional catch, of sharks and juvenile fish. In the case of the latter, fishing on FADs in Gabonese waters has resulted in almost 80% of the tuna caught being below reproductive age, as opposed to 12% on free schools of tuna. Gabon is now regulating the number of FADs that can be deployed by ship - and there is a movement within Gabon to ban FADs all-together. That movement will save countless sharks.
Small fish gathering beneath an FAD. Photo by Nellie Huié/Sea Shepherd.
The crew of the M/Y Bob Barker confiscating an illegal FAD. Photo by Lukas Erichsen/Sea Shepherd.
FAD tracking devices allowing fishing vessels to locate them with sonar and satellite. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd.
Operation Albacore Continues
Although Operation Albacore III concludes with the departure of the Bob Barker from Gabonese waters, Sea Shepherd is committed to continue working with Gabon and other regional partners to defend, conserve and protect the Gulf of Guinea from illegal and destructive fishing practices.
Sea Shepherd Australia invited scientists from The South Australian Department of Environment and Water to accompany them on a science expedition aboard the M/Y Steve Irwin to the Investigator Marine Park.
In March 2018, Marine and terrestrial surveys of the Investigator Area were conducted on and around the remote Pearson Isles and Flinders Island. Pearson and Flinders Islands are iconic locations and biodiversity hotspots, with a high diversity and abundance of fish as well as being home to breeding populations of long-nosed fur seals and endangered Australian sea lions.
Investigator Marine Park is a remote area located in the Investigator Group of islands in the Great Australian Bight off the west coast of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. Offshore islands Pearson and Flinders are two islands found in the Investigator Marine Park. Due to their significant conservation and scientific value they have been prioritised for long term monitoring.
Minister Speirs said: “It is amazing that 85 per cent of southern Australia’s marine life isn’t found anywhere else in the world. Scientific programmes such as this provide the foundation for our ongoing understanding and management of South Australia’s natural assets. Investigator Marine Park is dedicated to in order to conserve this significant biodiversity for the community and future generations.“
Marine and ecological scientists from the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) and the University of Adelaide joined Sea Shepherd staff on the expedition.
Sea Shepherd supplied their vessel, the M/Y Steve Irwin, to access the remote islands, enabling DEW to undertake critical ongoing dive monitoring. The Marine Parks Team conducted up to three marine survey dives per day, measuring size, abundance and biodiversity of fishes, invertebrates and macro-algae. Sea Shepherd undertook filming to capture the uniqueness of the Pearson Isles Sanctuary Zone, a location many will never have an opportunity to personally visit.
Dr Simon Bryars, Marine Parks Principal Scientist from DEW, said: “This expedition makes a significant contribution to assessment of biodiversity of the iconic Pearson Island area. Preliminary analysis shows that Pearson Island sub tidal habitats support the highest fish biodiversity and highest fish sizes surveyed by DEW in the South Australian marine park network. ”
“A red banded wrasse (pseudolabrus biserialis) was recorded - this represents the first record of this species in this state. Blue groper populations were prolific – potentially the highest abundance of any South Australian sanctuary zone. These initial findings suggest that this ecosystem is functioning close to an intact system and therefore important as a reference site for understanding other subtidal reef systems.”
Sandy Carruthers, Executive Director, Science, Department for Environment and Water: “I’m delighted that we have conducted the first marine parks expedition to Pearson Island, of assessment of biodiversity there. I’d also like to acknowledge and thank Sea Shepherd and the crew of the Steve Irwin for making this critical expedition possible, for it simply would not have happened without their support.”
Jeff Hansen, Sea Shepherd Australia Managing Director and expedition leader said: “The trip also facilitated using drones to count and classify endangered Australian sea lions. Computer models can then be used to get an indication of the population and health of the sea lions.
"Places like Pearson Isles are critical to the survival of this charismatic and tourism drawcard species. 3D habitat models for the Pearson Isles little penguin colony will also be developed from captured drone footage," he said.
“Sea Shepherd is an organisation that fills voids with the overall mission to protect the biodiversity of our oceans that all humanity rely on, be that in working with the governments in Africa in combatting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, or facilitating critical marine and terrestrial ecological surveys with the South Australian Government in the Great Australian Bight.
“The Great Australian Bight truly is one of the best kept secrets, an amazing grand marine wilderness area of global significance and importance. Sea Shepherd was proud to be able to facilitate this trip working with government to assess the biodiversity of this area," Jeff said.
Sea Shepherd protects the Italian waters thanks to a joint collaboration and support from the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund to tackle Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in the Aeolian Archipelago.
Sea Shepherd’s vessel M/V Sam Simon together with Lipari’s Coast Guard, Milazzo’s Revenue and Customs Authorities, and with the collaboration of artisanal fishermen, confiscated 52 fads (Fishing Aggregating Devices) and 100 kilometers of polypropylene line in the Aeolian Islands in 178 hours.
The M/V Sam Simon, with a crew of 29 people of 11 different nationalities, carried out an undercover operation in the South Tyrrhenian Sea in collaboration with the Maritime Management Port Authority of Catania (Direzione Marittima Capitaneria di Porto di Catania, n.d.t.), Lipari Coast Guard, and the Italian Revenue and Custom Authorities Milazzo (Guardia di Finanza Milazzo, n.d.t.). The 178-hour patrol led to the removal and consequent seizure of 52 illegal FADS (Fishing Aggregating Devices) along with 100 kilometres of polypropylene line from the waters of the Aeolian Islands, and reports of suspicious fishing activities, triggering further inspections in the area. In addition to the M/V Sam Simon, a second undercover vessel is also present in the Aeolian Islands to report any illegal activities to the authorities.
It is estimated that more than 1,500 FADs are illegally anchored each year, which is a key contributor to plastic pollution in the Italian Sea, and lethal for marine species such as Loggerhead sea turtles that can become entangled during migration. This results in 2,000km of polypropylene line, and hundreds of kilos of plastic and bottles (often dirty and containing harmful chemical liquids) being dropped in the sea.
Operation SISO is focusing on protecting the delicate ecosystem of the Aeolian Islands from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. It also shows the world the actual consequences of the use of FADs in the South Tyrrhenian Sea, and has earned the support of Lipari’s artisanal fishermen.
The Aeolian Islands were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, and form an archipelago of seven inhabited islands, and several smaller islands and rocky outcrops. The seven islands are located in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea, north of Sicily – just 12 nautical miles from Milazzo Cape. All of volcanic origin, they’re arranged in a Y-shape, with the feet pointing towards the west. Their rich biodiversity provides a perfect environment for the nesting of many migratory species and for whales, sperm whales, common dolphins, beaked whales, striped dolphins, grey dolphins and pilot whales.
The illegal FADs (Fishing Aggregating Devices), which are locally called “cannizzi”, are fixed buoys to which palm branches or similar materials are attached to form a sort of shelter under which high-seas fish gather. Considered a threat to both life in the Mediterranean and to local, legal fishing, they are illegal in the Aeolian waters at this time of the year, and have to be regulated when the season starts. The local management plan for the Aeolian Islands archipelago regulates their use: “In the zone to be managed, specific areas shall be specified in which the “cannizzi” shall be anchored, and their number shall be previously determined (maximum number: 20), along with the positioning and the use (measure 1.4 of the 2007-2013 EFF). They shall be assigned to fishers by means of random draw and they shall bear initials that make them recognizable. Moreover, in order to fight the fact that, in the last few years, common dolphinfish are caught earlier and earlier, it is ordered that the “cannizzi” shall be placed starting from September 15th, and that the beginning of the fishing of common dolphinfish shall start on October, 30th”.
Each FAD is made of 4-6 plastic drums with palm leaves as a floating part and a line up to 3000 metres long of approximately 3.5mm diameter and anchored to the seabed.
Siso was a young Sperm Whale (8.5 metres long) that died in 2017 entangled in a drift net during his migration close to the Aeolian Islands. The Coast Guard struggled to free him for many hours but sadly he could not be saved. Siso was later found dead along the coast of Milazzo Cape by the marine biologist Carmelo Isgro’ who saved the bones, keeping the net that killed him and the plastic that was in his stomach as a warning for future generations. "Siso" was the name of the friend that helped Carmelo retrieve the Sperm Whale, a friend who died in a car accident shortly after.
The Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund is a foundation dedicated to the protection of the Aeolian Islands’ natural beauty and to the promotion of sustainable tourism. The fund supports projects focussed on preserving the environment and the sea around the islands.
The Chairman of the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund, Luca Del Bono, said: “I am thrilled that from a casual meeting in California a collaboration with Sea Shepherd was born, and we look forward to a long-term partnership for the protection of the sea of our islands. I want to thank the organization and Andrea Morello in particular for believing in our mission.”
A special recognition also goes to Smile Wave, a Swiss foundation that supports both Sea Shepherd and the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund projects.
“With Operation SISO, Sea Shepherd returns to the Mediterranean Sea to protect cetaceans. A sperm whale came to visit us during the patrol along with numerous dolphins and turtles, almost to show us the way to the FADs, and fighting with us against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Operation SISO has obtained the full support of the artisanal fishermen of Lipari who, in joining us to defend the law, make our activities more and more effective. I would like to thank the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund for allowing us to navigate these waters together, and I am sure it is only the beginning of a lasting partnership. The most important weapon that makes the difference is the support of our donors combined with the passion of the volunteers that don’t turn the other way in the face of illegality and cruelty but fight it with direct action mile after mile. Neptune’s Navy will continue to fight relentlessly and consistently in the interests of life in the oceans, measuring our success in the numbers of lives saved." --Campaign Leader Andrea Morello
Shark caught on the hooks of the Vema. Photo by Tara Lambourne/Sea Shepherd
On September 22nd, local authorities from the Central African island state of São Tomé and Príncipe boarded the Senegalese-flagged, but Spanish-linked, long-line fishing vessel Vema in a joint operation with Sea Shepherd and Gabonese law enforcement officers for Operation Albacore III.
Although the long-liner was licensed to fish for 'tuna and similar species', inspections carried out by São Toméan authorities working on board the Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker revealed their fish holds were solely filled with sharks, predominately blue sharks that are classified as 'near-threatened' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Fishing line tracers (or snoods), which are the monofilament segments that support the fishing hooks, were reinforced with steel wire, thereby underlining the suspicion that the targeted species of the Vema was mainly sharks, not tuna. Steel snoods are used to prevent sharks from biting through the fishing line to escape.
Fish on board were also found gutted and processed, which is a violation of São Toméan fisheries regulations when advance approval has not been sought, which the Vema did not obtain.
Approximately two tons of sharks – including shark fins severed from their corresponding torsos – were discovered by inspectors, a fraction of what would have been uncovered had the Vema not recently return to São Toméan waters from Walvis Bay, Namibia, a port commonly used for offloading shark fins.
The arrest of the Vema is the fourth shark-finning bust carried out over the past two years, three of which were the direct result of joint operations between São Tomé and Príncipe and Gabon, with assistance by Sea Shepherd ships and crew.
“Given how sensitive shark species are to over fishing, coupled with the fact that 15% of shark species in the Atlantic are now endangered, it is alarming that industrial fishing vessels, many from Europe, continue to massacre sharks under the guise of tuna licenses. These Trojan horse fishing licenses deliberately mislead African coastal states as fishing vessels slaughter sharks with reckless abandon. Sea Shepherd applauds the São Toméan authorities for working together with Gabon and Sea Shepherd to bring African marine wildlife poachers to justice.”
Sea Shepherd Director of Campaigns Peter Hammarstedt.
In August 2016, São Toméan authorities, again operating on board Sea Shepherd’s Bob Barker, arrested a Spanish long-line fishing vessel, the Alemar Primero. On board the Alemar Primero were 87 tons of sharks and shark fins. The EU Directorate-General of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare) decided not to pursue charges of violating the European Union Finning Ban, despite complaints lodged by the São Toméan fisheries department.
In October 2017, the São Toméan fisheries department issued a Notice of Violation of Fisheries Rules to another Spanish ship owner, as well as a request to the European Commission to investigate an additional violation of the European Union Finning Ban, this time by a Spanish long-line fishing vessel, the Baz.
On September 12th, 2018, one week prior to the arrival of the Bob Barker in the waters of São Tomé and Príncipe, the Taiwanese-flagged Shang Fu was arrested by São Toméan Coast Guard with assistance from the Portuguese Navy.
Shark species are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they’re slow to grow, late to mature, and breed small numbers of offspring.
São Toméan fisheries regulations that prohibit processing of sharks at-sea and the European Union Finning Ban are existing conservation measures that ensure shark bodies are not discarded at sea to make room for the more valuable shark fins, therefore allowing far more sharks killed. Sharks are being killed in increasingly large numbers to meet a demand for fins to make shark fin soup.
Sea Shepherd works with authorities in African coastal states in unique joint patrols that allow shark finning operations to be uncovered through critical boardings and inspections at-sea.
In the 2018 Perkunas campaign Sea Shepherd Germany has patrolled several protected areas in the Baltic Sea between April and June. The crew of the MV Emanuel Bronner monitored fishing gear with an ROV, a remotely operated underwater vehicle, to expose the major threat for the critically endangered harbor porpoises: being caught and drowned accidentally in gillnets (also known as “bycatch”).
Although not discovered in the Sea Shepherd monitoring, in 2018 we confirmed at least two Baltic harbor porpoises have been killed as bycatch. Ten porpoises were found dead during a short period in June on the Polish coast alone, some showing attempts to cover up that they were killed in gillnets, such as a cut open body. With only 500 animals left, the Baltic harbor porpoise population doesn’t have much time left. For decades scientists have agreed that gillnets pose the major threat to the porpoises in the Baltic Sea due to the high risk of being killed as bycatch. Still, this fishing gear is permitted even in Marine Protected Areas.
The crew documented every gillnet they monitored. Photo by Sea Shepherd.
In 1992 the European Union established conservation laws, the so-called Habitats Directive, to create a network of protected areas in European waters (Natura 2000 network). Due to the nature of an EU Directive, the protection measures in these areas should have been implemented by the member state it concerns – which never happened. Several states had to pay fees for not following the directive and the EU blamed the member states for the insufficient conservation laws.
In June 2018 everything changed due to a judgment of the EU court (Case C-683/16). Several German nature and environmental protection associations tried to achieve a fishing ban in German Marine Protected Areas, but the demand was denied. Since a ban would also affect the fishermen of other EU states, it would, if anything, be a matter for the European Union. After years of trying to achieve a fishing ban at state level to implement EU conservation law, the EU now claims that the ban is not compliant with other EU laws.
Once again, the interest in profit is higher than the interest in environmental protection. But there are no winners in this situation: the gillnet fishing industry is in serious decline in the last decades. It simply is not bringing enough profit anymore, due to the human-caused decrease of biodiversity in the Baltic Sea. The question to ask now is what will go extinct sooner – the Baltic harbor porpoises or the gillnet fishing industry? If this game of shifting responsibilities to other institutions continues for the next 10 years, the losers will again be the porpoises.
In the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, a similar situation already happened. The Vaquita, a relative of the Baltic harbor porpoises, was declared critically endangered in 1996 with around 600 individuals left. Scientists agreed back then that the only solution is to totally eliminate gillnet fishing within the Vaquita habitat. Nothing but talking happened until 2015 when temporary gillnet fishing bans were implemented. In June 2017 a permanent ban of gillnets was issued, but by 2018 the population number dropped under 30 individuals, making it the most endangered marine mammal on the planet.
In only 22 years the Vaquita population declined by 95% since policymakers wasted time on talking and not acting. The Baltic harbor porpoises were declared critically endangered in 2008, 10 years ago. EU policymakers need to take their responsibilities now and ban gillnets and other destructive fishing methods from Natura 2000 areas, designated for the protection of two populations of harbor porpoises in the Baltic Sea: the vulnerable Belt Sea population located in the western part, and the critically endangered Baltic population located in the eastern part. There can be no exemptions and no temporary solutions. “Porpoise Alert” devices, or PALs, that should warn porpoises from gillnets just lead to the exclusion of the porpoises from their habitat. This cannot be a permanent solution and therefore no time nor money should be wasted on that approach. We should not make the same mistakes as the Mexican government by waiting too long before implementing the only effective solution which is the total ban of gillnets.
Take Action: Contact Policymakers
Signing petitions will not lead anywhere, it will just waste more time that these animals don’t have – for them every minute passing without action is a step closer to extinction. The citizens of the EU member states elected their policymakers; it is time for them now to act on our behalf. As a conclusion of the Perkunas campaign 2018, we need you to take action. Write EU policymakers to demand the ban of gillnets and other destructive fishing gear from the Natura 2000 areas, designated for the protection of the harbor porpoises in the Baltic Sea. Let them feel that we are many, let them feel that we care. Show them we actually want to preserve the heritage of the EU, the only native cetaceans of the Baltic Sea, as they once wrote in their conservation laws.
EU Commission department for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Among the objectives of the department are the protection of the maritime environment while maintaining Europe's competitiveness and the implementation of the new common fisheries policy including the technical measures of how, where and when fishermen may fish.
EU Commission department on Energy, Climate change and Environment
Among the objectives of the department is the legal impetus for the EU to protect and clean up its coasts, seas and oceans as part of an integrated strategy that will enable sustainable use and the coordination of the largest network of protected areas in the world, known as Natura 2000.