At 1152 GMT on 6 April 2015, the notorious poaching vessel, the 'Thunder', sank at 0˚ 20' North 05˚ 23' East inside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Sao Tome. Sea Shepherd ships remained at a safe distance from the sinking poaching vessel. Photo: Simon Ager / SSCS

6 April 2015 (SSCS) – At 1152 GMT today, the notorious poaching vessel, Thunder, sank at 0˚ 20' North 05˚ 23' East inside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Sao Tome.

The Sea Shepherd ships Bob Barker and Sam Simon are in the process of rescuing the entire crew of 40, including the captain, officers, and deck crew, who were all able to disembark to liferafts from the Thunder before it sank.

Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, said, “When my Chief Engineer boarded the Thunder in the hours leading up to the sinking, he was able to confirm that there were clear signs that the vessel was intentionally scuttled. Usually when a vessel is sinking, the captain will close all hatches so as to maintain buoyancy. However, on the Thunder, the reverse was done - doors and hatches were tied open and the fishhold was opened. It is an incredibly suspicious situation, to say the least.”

Sea Shepherd has been able to confirm that, at this time, there have been no reported injuries.

The crew of the Thunder have been supplied with food and water, and will now be received by the Sam Simon.

Captain of the Sam Simon, Sid Chakravarty, said, “With the safety of my own crew also in mind, we will now take every precaution to ensure that the crew of the Thunder is retrieved from the lifeboats safely.”

The Thunder is the most notorious of six vessels – which Sea Shepherd calls the “Bandit 6” - that are know to engage in Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported (IUU) fishing of vulnerable toothfish in the Southern Ocean.

The Bob Barker has been engaged in a four-month, record-breaking pursuit of the vessel, which has gone from the Southern, to the Indian and the Atlantic Oceans.

On December 25 2014, the Sam Simon commenced retrieval operations to remove the illegal fishing gear abandoned by the Thunder when it first fled from the Bob Barker. More than 72 kilometres of illegal gillnet was recovered over a three week period and over 1,400 fish, weighing a total of 45,000 kilograms, were returned to the ocean.

On February 25 2015, the Sam Simon handed over the confiscated fishing gear as evidence of the Thunder's illegal fishing activity to authorities in Mauritius.

In March, another two of the Bandit 6, the Viking and Kunlun, were detained by authorities in South East Asia. The captains of both vessels were arrested for fisheries related crimes.

The poaching vessels are the target of Sea Shepherd's 11th Southern Ocean Defence Campaign, Operation Icefish.

Poaching Vessel, Thunder, Sinks in Suspicious Circumstances

Sea Shepherd activists tow a convoy of liferafts from the sinking poaching vessel, the 'Thunder', back to the safety of the 'Sam Simon'. Photo: Jeff Wirth / SSCS

6 April 2015 (ABC) – Conservation group Sea Shepherd says it is trying to rescue at least 35 crew members who have abandoned a sinking vessel off the coast of West Africa.

The Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker had been tailing the Thunder for several months, as it is believed the ship is involved in illegal fishing in Antarctic waters.

Sea Shepherd's Adam Burling said the Thunder issued a distress signal at about 4:00pm (AEST) on Monday afternoon.

"What we've done is we've launched our small boat to offer assistance," he said.

"We've confirmed that the Thunder is sinking and that their 35 crew have abandoned the ship into life rafts.

"We have a second ship arriving within the next few hours, the Sam Simon, so between the two we feel we can safely accommodate the crew."

Peter Hammarstedt, captain of the Bob Barker, told ABC News 24: "We have a small boat in the water. They're delivering water, food and medical advice to the Thunder crew."

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has been informed, and is relaying information to rescue authorities in Nigeria.

The Thunder was issued with an Interpol notice for suspected illegal fishing activity in 2013.

Sea Shepherd have been following the ship as part of its Operation Icefish.

"We've been following the internationally-wanted poaching vessel Thunder for the past 110 days. They were at the limit of their fuel yesterday," said Mr Hammarstedt.

"Our suspicion is that the captain of the Thunder, knowing he's run out of fuel, has deliberately sunk his own boat in order to destroy any physical evidence.

"I've sent a couple of my crew onboard the Thunder — my chief engineer examined the engine room, which is completely underwater.

"We also notice they've opened several hatches — those that the water, once it's filled one area of the ship, will quickly go into another and it's clear, in my opinion, that this ship was sunk." [more]

Sea Shepherd aiding crew of sinking ship suspected of illegal fishing off West Africa coast

The notorious poaching vessel, the 'Thunder' sinks, bow-up, under suspicious circumstances. Photo: Simon Ager / SSCS

6 April 2015 ( – Environmental activist group Sea Shepherd has rescued the very ship it has accused of poaching threatened fish stocks and campaigning against over the past few months.

The Bob Barker received a distress call from Patagonian toothfish poaching vessel Thunder this afternoon.

Captain Peter Hammarstedt said 35 crew members had been rescued late tonight from the sinking ship, and were being held in life rafts until Sea Shepherd received further advice from marine authorities on where to take them.

He said the circumstances of the sinking, in the southern ocean off the coast of Africa, were suspicious.

“This isn’t your usual rescue situation,” he said.

“We’ve been following them for the past 110 days and we are currently 90 nautical miles from port. They are running low on fuel and we suspect the captain has deliberately sunk his ship to destroy evidence of illegally poached fish.

Thunder has been engaging in gross criminal activity and this is just the latest act of that activity. They haven’t been able to go to port because we’ve been following them daily and reporting their location to the authorities so they know as soon as they go to port they were going to be detained.” [more]

Conservation group Sea Shepherd has launched a rescue mission to save sinking poaching vessel, Thunder


  1. Anonymous said...

    Every cloud has a silver lining.

    Or so they say.

    Glad to see this atrocity to ocean life sink to the bottom, but not happy about the added pollution.

    And something stinks about this entire story as the author noted.

    Avoiding criminal prosecution is one thing, but there is also the possibility that more then this is going on. We'll have to watch and see.

    I'm grateful for the dedication of the activists to keep up the pursuit for so long.  


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