Images captured of the officers aboard the Interpol-listed criminal fishing vessel, 'Thunder'. Photo: Simon Ager / Sea Shepherd Global

By Captain Paul Watson
13 March 2015

(Facebook) – This week, the Chief of the New Zealand Defense Force, Lieutenant-General Tim Keating, had to appear before a Parliamentary Committee meeting to explain why, in January, the New Zealand Navy did not board and arrest an Interpol-listed toothfish poaching vessel in the Southern Ocean within the area controlled by New Zealand and Australia.

Labour Party Defence spokesperson Phil Goff asked why the Navy vessel Wellington failed to board any of three vessels it found fishing illegally in the Southern Ocean in January.

The ships claimed to be flagged in Equatorial Guinea. Equatorial Guinea denied that the ships were registered in their nation. This meant that the ships were unflagged, and thus it was perfectly legal for the New Zealand Navy to have boarded them.

Lieutenant-General Tim Keating defended the Navy’s decisions, saying the Navy did not have the legal authority to board the vessels without permission from the captain of the poaching vessels.

Keating said the Navy’s mission was to gather evidence.

Phil Goff was not happy with his answer.

"It's all very well to get evidence, they've been doing it for ten bloody years, fishing an endangered species to extinction, making millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars, and they are known to belong to a Spanish criminal syndicate."

Mr. Goff cited that the activist ship, the Sea Shepherd, had seized fishing nets used by the illegal fishing vessels.

This angered Lientenant General Keating, who responded that the navy could not operate in the same way.

"Sir, with all due respect, I'm not the Sea Shepherd and I'm bound to act within the law of New Zealand, and not act as a pirate."

Mr Goff continued to argue that under the Law of the Sea the Navy could have boarded the illegal fishing vessels and taken action.

The Navy kept referring to Clause 110 of the UNCLOS as their reason for not being authorized to board the poaching vessel Kunlun.

It appears they had not even bothered to read the clause they are citing.

Section (a) states that a ship can be boarded because of acts piracy. Section (d) states that the Navy can board a ship that is without nationality.

The Kunlun was pirating Antarctic Toothfish and it was without nationality.

Article 110

Right of visit

1. Except where acts of interference derive from powers conferred by treaty, a warship which encounters on the high seas a foreign ship, other than a ship entitled to complete immunity in accordance with articles 95 and 96, is not justified in boarding it unless there is reasonable ground for suspecting that:
(a) the ship is engaged in piracy;
(b) the ship is engaged in the slave trade;
(c) the ship is engaged in unauthorized broadcasting and the flag State of the warship has jurisdiction under article 109;
(d) the ship is without nationality; or
(e) though flying a foreign flag or refusing to show its flag, the ship is, in reality, of the same nationality as the warship.
2. In the cases provided for in paragraph 1, the warship may proceed to verify the ship's right to fly its flag. To this end, it may send a boat under the command of an officer to the suspected ship. If suspicion remains after the documents have been checked, it may proceed to a further examination on board the ship, which must be carried out with all possible consideration.
3. If the suspicions prove to be unfounded, and provided that the ship boarded has not committed any act justifying them, it shall be compensated for any loss or damage that may have been sustained.
4. These provisions apply mutatis mutandis to military aircraft.
5. These provisions also apply to any other duly authorized ships or aircraft clearly marked and identifiable as being on government service.

It appears that the real decision was political. The question is why?

In January 2013, the New Zealand authorities searched the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin while being refueled in Timaru. They were searching for me at the request of Japan. They also sent a helicopter out to sea to see if I was on board the Brigitte Bardot.

New Zealand was eager to arrest myself for intervening against illegal Japanese whaling operations but the New Zealand Navy simply watched and filmed the Kunlun illegally removing tens of thousands of dollars worth of toothfish from the seas under their own jurisdiction.

Last week, the Sam Simon turned over real evidence to Interpol in Mauritius. Today marks the 85th day of the pursuit of the Thunder by the Bob Barker.

How is it that two unarmed ships, crewed by volunteers, can chase a fleet of toothfish poachers from the Southern Ocean, seize their illegal gear, deny them their profits, and deliver real evidence to the international policing authorities, yet the New Zealand Navy with guns and trained men, with the law very much on their side, failed to stop real pirates?

They then have the audacity to accuse the passionate people who are actually getting the job done of being “pirates.”

This reminds me of the old days of piracy in the Caribbean in the 17th Century when pirates intercepted slave ships. Slaves were freed and were given the opportunity to serve as crewmembers on ships where they could rise to the level of their own competence. In many cases black officers led both black and white crewmembers in operations. Whereas the British Navy in the early part of the 18th Century defended slavery, the pirates opposed it.

Jean LaFitte, who stood side-by-side with Andrew Jackson for the defense of New Orleans, was a pirate, and today he is considered an American hero.

Captain John Paul Jones, the founder of the American Navy was condemned as a pirate by the British government.

Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh were condemned by the Spanish as pirates for stealing the gold that the Spanish themselves stole from the Aztec and the Inca.

Robert Sourcouf was a pirate who was awarded the Legion of Honour by Napoleon.

It was the pirate Captain Henry Morgan who vanquished pirates from Panama, earning himself a knighthood and the governorship of Jamaica.

Today in Germany statues can be found in Hamburg and other cities of a man named Klaus Störtebeker. There is even a Störtebeker Festival held annually in the town of Ralswiek on the island of Rugen. Störtebeker (1360-1401) is Germany’s most famous pirate. And he served Germany with honour in the wars with Denmark and Sweden.

So what we have here is the New Zealand Navy dismissing Sea Shepherd as pirates but refusing to intervene against real piracy audaciously taking place in front of their own guns, in waters they are obliged to defend.

What Lieutenant-General Tim Keating is really angry about is that Sea Shepherd humiliated the New Zealand Navy by not only taking action, but by successfully and effectively doing so.

The powers that be can call Sea Shepherd pirates all they want, but the reality is that Sea Shepherd has never caused a single injury to a single person, has never disrupted a legal activity, has never been convicted of a felony, and what Sea Shepherd has done is to uphold international conservation law and to save the lives of tens of thousands of whales, dolphins, turtles, sharks, toothfish, and many other citizens of the sea.

If it takes pirates to speak the truth to power, then we are happy to stand alongside the likes of Captain John Paul Jones, Captain Henry Morgan and others who took action and got things done – effectively, efficiently, and justifiably.

Arrrg, We Be Gentle Pirates Because Pirates Get Things Done



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