Pursuit of notorious poaching vessel Thunder enters record 100th day – Sea Shepherd calls on Navies to intercept ‘slave’ shipPosted by Jim at Friday, March 27, 2015
By Captain Paul Watson
27 March 2015
(Facebook) – DAY 100: The Pursuit of the Thunder.
The Bob Barker and the Sam Simon are both on the tail of the world's most notorious toothfish poacher. A pursuit that has covered over 10,000 nautical miles over three oceans, the Southern, the Indian, and now the South Atlantic, from Antarctica to the Equator. It is the longest pursuit of a poaching vessel in maritime history.
Yesterday Nigerian officially struck the flag of the Thunder. The ship is now unregistered and without a flag, making it a pirate vessel according to international maritime law.
And now it is something more. Sea Shepherd is calling on the Navies of the world to intervene and board this unflagged poaching vessel to investigate allegations of human trafficking. Sea Shepherd has reason to believe that many of the Thunder’s Indonesian crew are not onboard under their own free will and that they are prisoners under the control of the Captain and officers.
25 March 2015 (SSCS) – Yesterday, the Sea Shepherd ship Sam Simon rendezvoused with fellow Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker, at 7˚ 27' South 02˚ 19 West, in the Atlantic Ocean. It is the second time the vessels have met during the course of Operation Icefish, Sea Shepherd's current Southern Ocean Defence Campaign, which commenced in December 2014.
The Sam Simon will be resupplying and lending support to the Bob Barker as the ship continues its world record breaking pursuit of the internationally blacklisted, Nigerian-flagged poaching vessel, Thunder.
Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, said, “The return of the Sam Simon is one more nail in the coffin of the Thunder. With it comes the reminder that we have at our disposal a ready support network that can, and will, outmatch anything the Thunder has available to them. We have the resources and we have the determination to see this chase through to the very end.”
The Thunder was first intercepted by the Bob Barker on December 17 on the Banzare Bank, Antarctica. Since that time, the Bob Barker has maintained a continuous pursuit of the poaching vessel, travelling from the Southern, to the Indian and now the Atlantic Ocean, over a staggering 98 days.
The Sam Simon departed from Port Louis, Mauritius, on March 9 where it had been for 10 days. The Sea Shepherd ship had travelled to the island state in order to hand-over evidence of the Thunder's illegal fishing activity to an international investigative team, coordinated by local authorities under the direction of a Criminal Intelligence Officer from international policing organisation, Interpol.
The Sam Simon also used the time in port to gather fresh supplies for the Bob Barker.
Captain of the Sam Simon, Sid Chakravarty, said, “We have travelled over 15,000 nautical miles through the course of Operation Icefish, starting in the South Pacific and meeting today with the Bob Barker in the South Atlantic. The rounding of the Cape of Good Hope in pursuit of the Thunder, first by the Bob Barker and then by the Sam Simon, is nothing short of legendary. The crew of the Bob Barker have been at sea for 111 days today and we are delighted to be by their side and it fills our hearts with joy and respect for these brave ocean warriors.”
The Thunder is the most notorious of the six remaining toothfish poaching vessels – which Sea Shepehrd calls the “Bandit 6” - that are known to engage in Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean.
The vessel has a long history of fishing violation and in December 2013 was issued with an Interpol purple notice for suspected illegal fishing activity, following a joint effort by New Zealand, Australian and Norwegian authorities.
The Thunder was the first of three “Bandit 6” poaching vessels that have been intercepted by Sea Shepherd during Operation Icefish. On February 2 this year, the Sam Simon intercepted the Kunlun and the Yongding in Australian waters west of the Ross Sea. The Sea Shepherd ship then engaged in a pursuit of the Kunlun, chasing the poaching vessel out of its hunting grounds in the Southern Ocean.
The Kunlun is currently in detention in Thailand, following a coordinated effort between Interpol and Thai, Australian and New Zealand authorities.
Operation Icefish is Sea Shepherd's 11th Southern Ocean Defence Campaign and its first to target IUU fishing operators in the waters of Antarctica.
27 March 2015 (SSCS) – In a radio communication to the Sea Shepherd ships Bob Barker and Sam Simon, the Captain of the Interpol-wanted poaching vessel, Thunder, has reported that one of the deck crew, said to be Indonesian, has attempted suicide.
The report comes in the wake of the news that the Thunder has been de-registered by its flag state, Nigeria, for violations of its registry conditions; an action that means that the Thunder is now officially a stateless, pirate-vessel as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
In the follow-up to the attempted suicide attempt, the Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker, launched a small boat and attempted to deliver notes in plastic bottles to the Thunder's Indonesian deck crew. The notes stated that the Sea Shepherd ships are willing and equipped to take on board not only the injured crewmember, but the entire deck crew of Thunder.
The notes were intercepted by the officers on the Thunder, who are believed to be of Spanish descent, and thrown overboard.
The Captain of the Thunder then radioed the Bob Barker and stated that the Indonesian crew did not want further communication with the Sea Shepherd ships. Another man, said to be the “Indonesian deck boss”, then read a prepared statement in Spanish, stating that the "captain is a good person" and that they did not want Sea Shepherd to deliver any more messages.
An Indonesian speaker on board the Sam Simon then radioed the Thunder in Bahasa, the local Indonesian language, to verify the contents of the prepared Spanish statement. The Thunder’s Captain responded, saying the deck boss had "gone to bed" and that Sea Shepherd would not be able to speak to him again.
Despite requests for further information, the Captain of the Thunder would not provide the name of the Indonesian deck boss, or the name of the crewing agency responsible for hiring the deck crew. He also stated that the poaching vessel was equipped to remain at sea for another nine months.
Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, responded, repeating Sea Shepherd's offer to take the on board the deck crew of Thunder. The Captain of the Thunder refused the offer.
Captain Hammarstedt, said, “I firmly believe that the Indonesian crew of the Thunder are trafficked persons under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, specifically the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (General Assembly Resolution 55/25) and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (General Assembly Resolution 55/25). I also believe that they are being held against their will and know that they are not allowed to communicate freely - this on board a vessel suspected of numerous fisheries crimes and one that has exhibited violent behaviour toward my crew. The attempted suicide on board the Thunder, and the Captain's apparent intention to stay at sea, gives me strong reason to worry about injury and death on board that vessel in the absence of government intervention.”
In light of these latest developments, Sea Shepherd has called upon support from the world's navies to intervene and apprehend the Thunder immediately.
Captain of the Sam Simon, Sid Chakravarty, said, “Article 99 of the UNCLOS states that, 'Every State shall take effective measures to prevent and punish the transport of slaves in ships authorized to fly its flag and to prevent the unlawful use of its flag for that purpose.' Further, Article 110 of UNCLOS empowers naval ships to board a vessel encountered on the high seas if there is 'reasonable ground for suspecting' that the vessel is 'without nationality' or is 'engaged in slave trade.' The Thunder is now both without nationality and in all reasonable assessment, must be considered to be engaged in slave trade. In the name of human decency, in accordance with international law, responsible governments must immediately send naval vessels to intervene and shut down this floating prison.”
The Bob Barker has been engaged in a continuous pursuit of the Thunder for 100 days since it was first intercepted on 17 December 2014, on the Banzare Bank, Antarctica.
The poaching vessel is the most notorious of six remaining IUU vessels – which Sea Shepherd calls the “Bandit 6” - that are known to target vulnerable toothfish in the Southern Ocean.
The vessels are the target of Sea Shepherd's 11th Southern Ocean Defence Campaign, Operation Icefish. The campaign, which commenced in December last year, is Sea Shepherd's longest, continuous at-sea campaign to date.