Looking Back: Rogue Poaching Vessel “Thunder” Scuttled, April 6, 2015

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The outlaw fishing vessel FV Thunder was scuttled by its crew in 2015 after a 112-day chase by Sea Shepherd’s two vessels, the Bob Barker and the Sam Simon, which broke the previous record of a 21-day chase set by the Australian patrol vessel Southern Supporter in her search of Viarsa 1 in 2003. As part of “Operation Icefish,” the two Sea Shepherd vessels, pursued the renegade trawler Thunder for 10,000 miles in Antarctic waters where it was illegally fishing for Patagonian toothfish from December 17, 2014, to April 6, 2015.

The Thunder was one of six fishing vessels known as the “Bandit 6” who fished for Patagonian toothfish illegally in the Southern Ocean. The ship was last registered in Lagos, Nigeria, but Nigeria officially delisted the ship a week before it sunk.

The Patagonian toothfish, sold as “Chilean Sea Bass” in Canada and the United States, is a notothen (bald rock cod) found in the southern Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans between depths of 45 and 3,850 m (150 and 12,630 ft) in the cold waters (1–4 °C or 34–39 °F).

On April 12, 2013, an Interpol notice for the ship was released. Thunder was intercepted by Malaysian authorities in May 2014 for illegal fishing, but they let the ship go after a $90,000 fine was paid. The Bob Barker and the Sam Simon took up the chase of the renegade trawler Thunder for 10,000 miles from Antarctica as part of “Operation Icefish.” The ship was first intercepted on December 17, 2014, for deploying illegal gillnets inside the CCAMLR (Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) management area.

Thunder
Photo Credit: Simon Ager/Sea Shepherd Global

The crew, which included 30 Indonesians and 10 officers from Spain, Chile, and Portugal, were handed over to authorities in So Tomé and Prncipe (Gulf of Guinea, western coast of Central Africa), while their captors watched the scuttled ship sink. The crew’s officers, including the Captain, Chief Engineer, and Second Mechanic, were later charged with numerous illegal fishing offences and sentenced to prison. They were fined a total of more than $17 million. The vessel, according to Interpol, was part of a fleet of six that operated via shell companies under Vidal Armadores, a Spanish firm.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a global non-profit organization whose mission is to protect all marine animals. The goal is to work with governments all over the world to help them track and apprehend criminal organizations that engage in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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