Indonesia blows up notorious poaching vessel

The Indonesian Navy and Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries on Monday blew up the illegal fishing vessel Viking in the shallow waters in the district of Pangandaran in West Java.

The fishing vessel is the last of the so-called “Bandit 6” toothfish poaching vessels, which have been illegally fishing for Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean for over a decade.

On hand to witness the explosion was Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti as well as representatives of the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd, who have claimed victory against the notorious poaching vessels after chasing them around Southern Ocean as part of the group’s Operation Icefish campaign.

Operation Icefish 2015-16 Campaign Leader, Captain Siddharth Chakravarty, said, “In a span of just 15 months, Sea Shepherd has cleaned up the Southern Ocean of illegal fishing. An issue that was largely thought to be unsolvable under current international legal instruments was confronted and dealt with using two direct-action, at-sea campaigns. Six of the most notorious and persistent poaching vessels on this planet are now out of commission making this one of the biggest successes in marine conservation history.”

Sea Shepherd first focused its attention on the illegal operations of the six vessels in 2014 when it launched Operation Icefish; the organization’s first campaign to target illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Southern Ocean. By April 2015, Sea Shepherd vessels with Operation Icefish had chased down the most notorious poaching vessel, the FV Thunder, drawing international attention after the chase was featured in the New York Times series The Outlaw Ocean.

“The campaign, which lasted for over five months and saw the historical and world-famous chase of the most notorious of the poaching vessels, Thunder, by the Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker, spawned international efforts that caused massive disruptions to the illegal toothfish trade,” Sea Shepherd said in a statement released Monday.

A month after the Thunder sank, two more of the vessels were apprehended in Cabo Verde, West Africa, and another was detained in Malaysia. Finally in February of 2016, Sea Shepherd announced that authorities in Senegal arrested the fifth vessel, followed by the arrest of the Viking by Indonesian Navy on February 26th when the ship entered the country’s waters.

Captain Hammarstedt said, “The success of the Operation Icefish campaigns would not have been possible without the backing of our supporters. Their unwavering support for our on-going mission to defend, conserve and protect the world’s oceans has made the abolition of the Bandit 6 from the Southern Ocean possible. To them, we extend our gratitude as they share with us in this massive victory.”

The sinking was hailed by Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, hoping that capture of the poaching vessel would send a strong message to the other illegal ship poachers of the world.

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