June 16, 2019

Sea Shepherd entering Libya waters to stop tuna poachers

Sea Shepherd's flagship Steve Irwin sets sail. Putting their safety on the line for the bluefin tuna.

Two Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ships will enter the waters off the coast of Libya, next month with the goal of intercepting bluefin tuna poachers and freeing any illegally caught fish in attempt to save the species from nearing extinction.

The territorial waters off Libya are a declared a no-fly zone by NATO, which means there will not be any poaching surveillance flights operating in the region.

The two Sea Shepherd vessels taking part in the campaign are the flagship, Steve Irwin and the new interceptor vessel that has not been named yet.

A Sea Shepherd statement says “This will be a dangerous campaign but the bluefin tuna are facing extinction within a few years unless they are effectively protected, and Sea Shepherd will not fail them. Last year, during the first Operation Blue Rage Campaign in 2010, Sea Shepherd crew members located and intervened against an illegal poaching operation freeing approximately 800 bluefins”.

France, Italy, and Spain catch most of the Atlantic bluefin consumed in the world, and 80 percent of the haul is sold to Japan. Bluefin tuna can weigh up to 650 kg and are found in the North Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Mediterranean Sea, where big commercial fisheries often fatten captured fish in floating enclosures.

Port captain Philippe Friboullet in Sete, France said the authorities would be informed if any of the Libyan-owned boats left port without the required fishing permits. Poachers can be expected from Libya, Malta, Italy, Spain, Tunisia, and Turkey.