If you’re going to fish the high seas illegally, you’d be wise to avoid Indonesian waters. The government sent the message loud and clear this week when it blew up and sank the FV Viking, a notorious fishing vessel on Interpol’s most wanted list.
The Viking was the last of six vessels targeted by Sea Shepherd International for poaching toothfish, also known as Chilean sea bass. Sea Shepherd’s MV Steve Irwin caught the Viking in Indonesian waters last month and alerted authorities.
Indonesia has taken a strong stance against illegal fishing, making it an outlier in an area that notoriously lacks monitoring and enforcement. The government has ended the operations of 150 poaching vessels, according to the Jakarta Globe.
The vessel in question had changed its name 13 times and flown 12 different flags in an effort to evade authorities. Eleven crew members — from Burma, Indonesia, Argentina, and Peru — have been arrested and could face up to seven years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
Indonesia has launched an investigation, with support from Canada and Norway, to find the ship’s owner and prevent more poaching vessels from being launched.
Sea Shepherd, meanwhile, has turned its sights to the Indian Ocean, where it will target illegal driftnet fishing. Driftnets indiscriminately trap and eventually kill all creatures that become entangled in them, including sharks, whales, and dolphins. The UN banned the use of large-scale driftnets on the high seas in 1993.
Earlier this year the Steve Irwin came across six vessels in the Indian Ocean using driftnets illegally. After running off one of the boats, the crew pulled three miles of abandoned nets on board, along with the bodies of 321 dead or dying fish, sharks, seals, and dolphins. In the coming days the ship will return to that part of the ocean to confront the fleet, document its activities, and destroy its fishing gear.
“The role of the Steve Irwin and its crew is to expose this illegality to the world and work inside this enforcement vacuum to shut them down,” said Steve Irwin Captain Siddharth Chakravarty in the YouTube video announcing the campaign launch.