By Bruce Mounster
Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson has criticised “defeatist” calls by two University of Tasmania academics for activists to avoid dangerous entanglements with suspected illegal fishing boats in the Southern Ocean.
On Wednesday, Julia Jabour and Indi Hodgson-Johnston, researchers with the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart, argued that tightening legal frameworks was the only effective way to stop Patagonian toothfish poachers, and that Sea Shepherd’s intervention would do little good.
However, Capt Watson has told the Mercury that Sea Shepherd’s vessel the Bob Barker had already achieved a major victory in depriving the most notorious poaching suspects aboard the Thunder of their nets, catch and profits.
“The poachers tried to head to Mozambique but when Sea Shepherd notified that nation it issued an arrest order for the Thunder,” he said.
“Wherever the Thunder goes, Sea Shepherd will make sure the world will know if any port gives these criminals sanctuary.”
Mr Watson said collective governments’ efforts to stamp out poaching had achieved nothing in the past decade.
However Andrew Wright, of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Resources said the government of Equatorial Guinea had granted permission for New Zealand navy personnel to inspect three vessels operating under that country’s flag.
Mr Wright said there were no guarantees that any intervention by the patrol boat HMNZS Wellington would cause the operators of the vessels Songhua, Yongding and Kunlun to put a permanent stop to illegal fishing, but boardings could yield valuable information.
“These vessels use bottom gillnets up to 25km in length, which have been banned since 2006,” he said.
Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the New Zealand efforts showed up Australia’s pitiful response.