In a video released today, the anti-poaching and marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd announced it has effectively shut down illegal fishing in Antarctica. The claim comes on the flippered heals of a two year campaign called Operation Icefish, during which Sea Shepherd targeted vessels that poached toothfish, a species of cod. Sea Shepherd’s specific target was a group of illegal ships, which it called the “Bandit Six.”
While government regulations had cut down the majority of the rampant illegal poaching in Antarctica, the Bandit Six had been able to avoid detection — and in turn, arrest — for the past decade. Every year, the vessels would lay illegal nets in Antarctica, take their catch to ports in Asia and Africa, then take on new names and identities on their way back.
Over the course of its campaign, Sea Shepherd was able to halt the activity of the Bandit Six through a series of initiatives. The people behind the Icefish campaign were able to confiscate 72 kilometers of illegal gillnet — the wall of nylon netting used to trap fish — set by the most notorious vessel of the Bandit Six, the Thunder. Sea Shepherd ship the Bob Barker also broke the record for the longest pursuit of a vessel at sea by chase of the Thunder for 110 days. The hunt eventually led to the sinking of the Thunder off the coast of Western Africa.
The pursuit of the other five ships led to their capture by government agencies. Four of the vessels are currently being detained while the final ship was sunk by the Indonesian navy in March. While this Antarctic campaign was a success, the work of Sea Shepherd is far from over. The organization operates campaigns around the world, with the goal of specifically protecting: Bluefin tuna, dolphins, reefs, sea lions, seals, sharks, turtles, and whales. In September it will debut a new boat, the Ocean Warrior, which will pursue whale poachers.
“Until the UN and other nations of the world can agree that there needs to be firm enforcement regimes on the high seas,” says Sea Shepherd’s Siddharth Chakravarty. “Sea Shepherd will continue to send its ships and enforce international conservation law on the world’s oceans.”