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Sea Shepherd’s Statement on Japan’s Decision to Commercially Slaughter Whales.

Sea Shepherd Paul Watson Nisshin MaruPhoto 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 BaldoPhoto 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. 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.

RELATED ARTICLE: "Sea Shepherd Launches Operation Jodari with Tanzania, Makes First three Arrests" (Feb 5, 2018)

RELATED ARTICLE:LEGAL UPDATE: Two More Arrests in Tanzanian Illegal Fishing Investigation” (June 5, 2018)

 The small boat of Sea Shepherd's Ocean Warrior brings Tanzanian Marines to the Buah Naga 1 for inspection. Photo by Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd. The small boat of Sea Shepherd's Ocean Warrior brings Tanzanian Marines to the Buah Naga 1 for inspection. Photo by Jax Oliver/Sea Shepherd.

Foreign Industrial Trawler Arrested as Sea Shepherd Launches Renewed Partnership with Liberia

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.

M/Y Steve Irwin

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."

Thwarted Again: Poaching Vessels Still Stuck in Cabo Verde Port after 2015 Arrest

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 GiorgiCrew 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.

The crew of the Sam Simon confirm the poaching vessels are still in the Port of Mindelo. Photos by Emanuela Giurano/Sea Shepherd.The crew of the Sam Simon confirm the poaching vessels are still in the Port of Mindelo. Photos by Emanuela Giurano/Sea Shepherd.

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Sea Shepherd news articles from 2012 and earlier.

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