Five of the Bandit Six are are down – only the VIKING remains. The KUNLUN that escaped last year from Thailand has been arrested in Senegal. Sea Shepherd’s Operation Icefish chased the THUNDER for 110 days until her captain scuttled his own ship in an attempt to destroy the evidence. Sea Shepherd boarded the sinking ship and seized the evidence to send the Captain and two of his officers to prison in Sao Tome. Sea Shepherd efforts contributed to the arrest of five of the six. Sea Shepherd will continue to hunt for the VIKING.
The following was published in the Phuket Gazette on February 9:
Authorities in Senegal have detained the internationally wanted toothfish-poaching vessel Kunlun, which slipped through the fingers of Phuket authorities after having been seized in March last year.
Reports allege that the illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing vessel had previously falsified its registry, claiming Indonesia as its flag state. This allowed the vessel to be detained in Senegal on formalities regarding its certification and flag status.
The ship, which had recently changed its name from Kunlun to Taishan, was apprehended in Phuket after it falsely reported offloading 182 tonnes of illegally caught Patagonian toothfish, valued at 179 million baht, as 182 tonnes of grouper, valued at just 15mn baht. However, after months of detention, the ship was able to flee the port it was moored at in Phuket.
“Finding a vessel such as the Kunlun, once it had escaped, was like finding a needle in a haystack. Even with modern satellite technology and intelligence sharing, there remain enough avenues for such repeat offenders to disappear,” said Captain Siddharth Chakravarty of the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin.
“Thailand took the first step and that was to arrest the vessel, detain her in port and aid the investigations into its operations.”
Three Phuket Customs officials were transferred out of the province following the ship’s escape in September last year.
“The Phuket Customs chief and two other officers were transferred to Bangkok,” explained Charoen Chamniklang from the Thai Customs Investigation and Suppression Bureau. “They allowed the ship to refuel, as it needed to keep all 182 tons of toothfish on board frozen. Once completely refueled, the Kunlun managed to escape.”
Other than levying a fine for falsely reporting the toothfish as grouper, officials had no authority to keep their cargo, explained Mr Charoen.
“The ship had already been through all the legal formalities at the Customs Office. However, the Phuket Marine Office was still investigating it for issues with its registration,” Mr Charoen explained.
Since escaping Phuket, there have been concerns that the vessel would be offloading its catch and returning to Antarctica. However, with its detention in Senegal, it is confirmed that the Kunlun, renamed Asian Warrior, did not return to the Southern Ocean after it was pursued by the Sea Shepherd ship Sam Simon last February.
“In previous years, illegal vessels would simply change their names and flags at will and use international loopholes and the lack of international cooperation to survive and remain in operation,” said Capt Chakravarty. “It is incredibly satisfying to know that the Kunlun, which was chased out of the Southern Ocean by my vessel in February 2015, has been unable to resume its illegal fishing operations.”
Out of the six known toothfish-poaching vessels, which Sea Shepherd calls the ‘Bandit 6’, five are now out of action. Only one, the Viking, remains at large.
Sea Shepherd’s flagship, Steve Irwin, will now continue to target the Viking as part of its current Southern Ocean Defence Campaign, Operation Icefish 2015-16.
“A continued strong commitment by state authorities across the world, heralded by the actions of Interpol’s Project Scale, has ensured that another toothfish poacher has been detained. International cooperation, spearheaded by two Southern Ocean campaigns by Sea Shepherd, has broken the back of the organized crime syndicates operating these vessels,” said Capt Chakravarty. “Cooperation between entities is a must in the work to be done to tackle IUU fishing.”
The Sea Shepherd crew will employ direct-action techniques to fill a law enforcement void that continues to be exploited by the remaining illegal toothfishing vessels, the group explained.
Despite the commitment shown by Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to prevent operators of ships such as the Kunlun from illegally using their ports, Capt Chakravarty was unable to rule out that Southeast Asia would not be revisited by toothfish poachers when it came to unloading their cargo.
“The applicability of international fishing violations remains limited in these countries,” said Capt Chakravarty.
“The oceans are in peril and our actions remain the only proactive and definite policing measures to tackle illegality. We intend to embrace the responsibility with courage and fortitude, and once again locate, investigate and shut down the most notorious poachers on this planet.”
Frontline workers honoured with free dive trip to Yap
The remote island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia is among the few places in the world that remains free of Covid-19 thanks to its ocean border and a strict travel ban that has kept its residents safe.
Nonetheless, Yap has been affected, too. As one of the world’s premier, award-winning destinations for divers, this paradisiacal location in the western Pacific Ocean has had no outside visitors to its rich shores and reef for nearly a year. But while there may be no virus, the island hasn’t been cut off from the economic impact experienced around the globe.
That didn’t stop Bill Acker, CEO and founder of the Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers, from doing something, though.
Last March, soon after the island went into lockdown, Bill began to realize the effect of the virus on daily life beyond the island. “Yes, we are closed, have no divers, had to send our employees home and prepare for difficult times,” he said. “But we’re lucky in that we have, for the most part, avoided the human suffering and death this pandemic has caused.”
Thinking about the problems faced by his family business, they paled when he compared them to those endured by the healthcare workers who have been fighting selflessly around the clock for months on end for the well-being and lives of others.
“One evening, while checking the news online, I saw pictures of frontline workers who were tending to desperately ill and dying people when families and friends could not be with their loved ones. It was heartbreaking,” he added.
The next day, a meeting was held with the resort’s staff and Bill invited suggestions for ways they could do something to honor healthcare workers. The result was the idea to award twenty divers who are working on the frontline to save other’s lives during this pandemic while risking their own, with a free week at the resort.
Divers around the world who had been guests at Manta Ray Bay in the past were invited to submit the names of candidates for the award by December 31, 2020. “We received nominations for 126 individuals from as far away as Germany, the U.S., Australia and Canada,” he said. “It was not easy choosing the winners but our committee of staff members took on the job and selected the 20 finalists.”
“While trying to choose the people to reward for their hard work during this Covid-19 crisis,” Bill added, “by reading the nominations we saw that every one of the nominees was doing things above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly, we don’t have the finances to offer over 100 free weeks in Yap, but we do want to recognize the contributions all of them are making to our world. So, we are offering the rest of the nominees a free week of diving in Yap which includes room, hotel tax, airport transfers, breakfast, diving and Wi-Fi. The only requirement is that they travel with at least three other people and stay in two rooms or more.”
“We do not yet know when Yap will open its borders,” said Bill, “but when it does, we will welcome these important guests to Yap to relax and dive with the manta rays and the other beautiful denizens of the ocean surrounding our island home. They are the true heroes of this devastating, historic time and we look forward to honoring them with a well-deserved dive vacation.”
Watch out for our exclusive trip report from a healthcare worker from the UK who is one of the 20 to have been awarded this amazing dive trip!
For more information on Manta Ray Bay and Yap Divers visit their website by clicking here.
Dream Dive Locker Build Out. Part I: Demolition (Watch Video)
It’s finally here! Time to start building the greatest dive locker the world has ever seen! Part I: Demolition! #dreamdivelocker
This is the first of a series of videos showing the evolution of building out my dream dive locker. My dream dive locker needs to be dive gear drying and storage, dry storage, workshop, office, editing suite, You Tube studio and classroom. That’s a lot of functions for a small space!
The first step is planning out the space and demolishing the laminate flooring. Then I taped up the walls to get a feel for the space. We have a lot of work to do!
But finally we will have a purpose built space to house all of our dive equipment! Subscribe to our channel to follow our progress!
Thanks for watching, Team!
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