Sea Shepherd Confiscates Uruguayan Toothfish Longline off Antarctic Coast

The Japanese are not the only pirates down here in the Southern Oceans. There are other poachers prowling these remote waters in search of different plunder.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society caught up with one of these other vessels - a Uruguayan fishing vessel named the Poloma. This vessel was in the process of looting the endangered Antarctic toothfish from inside the Australian Antarctic Territory.

The Farley Mowat crew first spotted five large pink buoys floating on the surface. Attached to the buoys was a brand new three-quarter inch green rope. Also attached was a radio homing beacon powered by batteries.

The crew switched off the radio beacon and began to pull in the rope, over 1,500 meters of it until they brought in a large anchor. Attached to the anchor was another three-quarter inch green rope with smaller lines with baited hooks attached every 5 meters.

The longline was designed to lie across the bottom to target the bottom dwelling toothfish.

It took the crew of the Farley Mowat over six hours to haul in the longline.

The line had just been set when discovered and the Farley Mowat crew reports that there were no toothfish on the hooks just fresh baitfish.

As the crew finished hauling the line, a ship appeared on radar and began to steam closer. It was the Uruguayan fishing vessel Poloma searching for their homing beacon.

Captain Paul Watson radioed the Poloma and asked what they were doing. A voice answered in Spanish identifying the ship as being from Uruguay and said they were fishing for cod under license to Uruguay. The toothfish is also referred to as Antarctic cod.

Captain Watson asked if they had a permit from Australia to fish in the Australian Antarctic Territory. The ship replied that they did. Captain Watson asked for the license number. The voice on the other end said that the license was with the Captain and he was sleeping and could not be disturbed.

The Farley Mowat did not inform the Poloma that the longline had been removed and confiscated. The conservation vessel left the area leaving the Poloma to fruitlessly search for their illegal property.

Piles of bright green longline accrue on the deck of the Farley Mowat as the
crew continues their confiscation job.

A Sea Shepherd inquiry to officials verified that the Poloma did not have a permit to fish in the Australian Antarctic Territory and was not a legal toothfish vessel.

The interception of this vessel is yet another indication of the illegal exploitation of these waters that is virtually unopposed.

Background: Antarctic cod (Dissistichus mawson) also known as Antarctic toothfish is the largest fish in Antarctica. It can grow to 120 kilograms (265 lbs) and reach a length  of 2.2 meters (7 feet). It is caught and sold as Patagonia toothfish or Chilean Sea Bass. There are a few legal licenses issued but it is primarily an illegal fishery. This is a bottom dwelling fish that inhabits the coastal waters of Antarctica.