An aggressive approach to defeating illegal fishing vessels

Catch Me If You Can: The Global Pursuit of a Fugitive Ship

The Indonesian government takes an aggressive approach to defeating illegal fishing vessels, claiming to have sunk hundreds of such ships in its waters. One official’s comment: “They’re very … efficient … with law enforcement.” Photo by Januar/AFP via Getty Images

Summarized from an article by Sarah Tory. Published in Hakai Magazine online, March 3, 2020. Read the full story here.

In a chase that rivals a James Bond adventure, a notorious illegal fishing vessel, the STS-50, is pursued by the Ocean Warrior. The Ocean Warrior is a sleek $8 million vessel, custom built by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for running down Japanese whaling ships.

The STS-50 was a 452 ton, Japanese longliner, infamous for poaching Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish (also called Chilean sea bass), two cod species from the Southern Ocean. Authorities believe the STS-50 ran illegally for about 10 years, hauling in $50 million worth of the fish.

Illegal fishing vessel STS-50

 It took dozens of collaborators in numerous countries to finally take down the notorious illegal fishing ship known as the STS-50. Photo by Sea Shepherd

"The Ocean Warrior crew was determined to keep their eyes on the target. But, after chasing the STS-50 for more than 1,600 kilometers across the Indian Ocean, the Ocean Warrior was low on fuel. The predicament forced the Sea Shepherd captain, Mike Dicks, to make an agonizing decision: turn back. It looked like the STS-50 was about to disappear yet again.

Instead, something else happened. On April 6, 2018, less than two weeks after the Ocean Warrior abandoned chase, Indonesian authorities captured the STS-50 near Banda Aceh. It was a rare victory against an illegal fishing boat, and it highlighted a growing international movement to tackle fishing crimes."

"The STS-50 managed to fish illegally for years because its captain had a knack for making the ship scarce."

Experts estimate that up to 20 percent of the world’s total catch (fish and other marine fauna) falls under illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. That’s more than 23 million tonnes of seafood stolen from the seas annually—or one out of every five wild-caught fish sold on the market—worth $23.5-billion.

The apprehension of the STS-50 demonstrates what is possible when governments, law enforcement, and civil society work across the political boundaries that once constrained them.

Posted in Adventure, Environment.