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Crew Blog

Welcome to the Operation Blue Rage crew blog. Please check back often for blogs written by members of the Sea Shepherd crew, directly from our flagship the Steve Irwin.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Libyan mission accomplished: 800 endangered bluefin tuna freed

Wietse van der Werf
Engineer, Steve Irwin

It is night when we enter Libyan waters. Everyone on the ship is excited, yet somewhat anxious about what is coming. We are the first to enter these waters in search of illegal bluefin tuna fishing. Neither observers from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which 'manages' the fishery, nor French or Maltese navy vessels operate here. We are determined to find a floating cage full of illegally caught bluefin tuna, an endangered fish, and release them.

Our helicopter has been out for some time when it spots a target. Two tugs, towing a cage each, both full of tuna and headed for the tuna fattening farms in Malta. Down in the engine room we work to get the ship the extra thrust it needs to arrive at the target as soon as possible. Having a quick look up on deck, I can spot two vessels on the horizon. Around here you don't have to look far to find illegal fishing.

Closer to the vessels we request permission to inspect the fish. Only a certain percentage of undersized fish, known as juveniles, are allowed. This is often where the violations occur. Our request is refused. The fishermen state that the fish were caught on the last day of the allowed fishing season and that the cage contains the catch from eight different fishing ships. The story doesn't add up. The bad weather conditions in the fishing grounds we have witnessed in the last few days, which make fishing virtually impossible, and the relatively short distance the boats are from the fishing grounds make us highly suspicious of their story.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

First Time at Sea, First Time for Bluefin

Maribel Guevara
Quartermaster, Steve Irwin

The first two weeks on sea, for anybody who is new to the sea, are an amazing experience for sure, but the first two weeks on the sea on board the Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin are just incredible. To be surrounded by people with the same beliefs is priceless.  The Blue Rage campaign to save the bluefin tuna is a completely a new experience, not just to me, but also for the whole organization.  It has been a process where everybody has learned a lot about the issue.  The first action we had was really exciting and paid back our expectations; we all are really happy with the results. We still have a few more days and are hoping for more opportunities to make an impact.

In the meantime, the endless jobs on the ship and magnificent meals keep us happy and very busy.  I feel truly really lucky to be part of this group and operation and look forward to an even more successful end of the campaign!

Las primeras dos semanas a bordo de un barco deben ser muy especiales para cualquiera, pero las tprimeras dos semanas  a bordo del “Steve Irwin”, la embarcacion de Sea Shepherd Conservation Society han sido mas que increibles.  Estar rodeada por gente con las mismas creencias y principios es invaluable.  La campaňa Blue Rage para proteger el atun de la estincion es una experienceia compleatametne nueva no solamente para mi pero para toda la organizacion.  Ha sido un proceso donde todos hemos aprendido mucho a cerca de este problema.  La primera accion que tuvimos fue muy emocionante y gratificante.  Todos estamos muy contentos con el resultado.  Todavia tenemos unos pcoos dias mas y esperamos mas oportunidades para liberar los atunes.

Mientras tanto, los infitnitos trabajos en el barco y las maravillosas comidas servidas a boirdo nos mantienen felices y muy ocupados.  Me siento realmente afortunada de ser parte de estre grupo y operacion y espero por supuesto que tengamos mas exito en esta campania y en las proximas por venir !

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thoughts from the Med

Simon Ager
Jack-of-all-Trades aboard the Steve Irwin

Tired of the same old routine, the same people, and the same drab office cubicle, wanting to do something more meaningful in my life, something that I can be really proud of. Three years in the waiting to be part of the amazing and dedicated team that makes up the crew of the Steve Irwin; from meeting like minded people, the new skills learned from deck to the bridge, and all whilst trying not to gain 20 lbs dining on the most creative vegan cuisine. And everyday I’m waking up on campaign knowing that I’m out here actively trying to make a difference for something other than myself. Life changing…no more just an armchair warrior!

Operation Blue Rage 2010

A new campaign that has seen the Steve Irwin and some of the crew travel half way around the world in defense of bluefin tuna. It is my hope that we are able to make a physical and financial impact on the tuna industry, and at the same time awaken the sleeping masses to the destruction of the world’s oceans. It’s an honor to be a part of Sea Shepherd and a dedicated and passionate crew of some thirty or so individuals that are not prepared to sit by and witness the wanton extinction of bluefin tuna by industry and governments for short-term financial gain.

The ocean’s of the world need a voice, Sea Shepherd is that voice!

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sea Shepherd enters Libyan waters in search of tuna poachers

Wietse van der Werf
Engineer, Steve Irwin

Just over a week ago we left Malta with our ship the M/V Steve Irwin, on course to intervene against bluefin tuna poachers. Having recently returned from an eventful anti-whaling campaign in the Southern Ocean, the Mediterranean brings different challenges. The engine room has turned sauna and sleeping is made difficult by the soaring heat radiating through the deck above. We are in one of the most overfished seas in the world and have been patrolling the area south of Malta for illegal fishing operations.

In summer the waters of the Mediterranean are calm and warm. Warming up from the east, once the temperature near the surface reaches over 20C, it is an ideal spot for bluefin tuna populations to spawn. The bluefin tuna is a highly prized fish, which finds its way into the Asian markets as a sushi delicacy. The increasing demand for the fish has taken its toll on the Mediterranean populations, of which 85% has disappeared in the last 50 years.

Day and night we encounter fishing vessels. Our radar is filled with targets but so far all of the French, Italian and Tunisian vessels we have come across had fishing permits and frequently they were escorted by French or Maltese patrol ships. It is no surprise they don't take chances, with Sea Shepherd currently active in the area. Last week Greenpeace encountered a tuna pen which was being tugged to a tuna farm. In an attempt to free the fish inside, one Greenpeace crew member got severely injured when angry fishermen retaliated, harpooning one of the activists through the leg with a fishing hook.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Sea Shepherd moves to protect Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna

Wietse van der Werf
Engineer, Steve Irwin

The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin, which recently returned from a highly successful anti-whaling campaign in the Southern Ocean, is set to arrive in Europe this week. In a new campaign to halt illegal tuna fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, dubbed "Operation Blue Rage", Sea Shepherd intends to actively intervene against the poachers, which are pushing the fish towards extinction.

The bluefin tuna is so heavily overfished that it is expected its breeding population will have disappeared from the Mediterranean by 2012. The region has always been known to be an area rich in biodiversity, yet in the last 50 years, industrial fishing, in particular trawling and purse seine fishing for bluefin tuna, has decimated the populations of marine wildlife. Purse seining is a method in which entire schools of fish are caught in a single haul. Up to three quarters of the bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean is caught in this way. After they have been transferred to pens at tuna farms, they are fed up to 25 times their own body weight to meet the demands of the market. Over 80% of bluefin tuna caught worldwide is exported to Japan, where the fish end up as a highly prized ingredient in sushi.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which set up in 1969 to manage the bluefin tuna fishery, has time and again failed to protect the species properly, setting yearly catch quotas well above the sustainable recommendations set by their own scientific committee. In November 2008, at the opening of ICCAT’s annual meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, ICCAT chairman Fábio Hazin warned delegates that this was the "very last chance to prove that we can do our job properly. If we fail, other institutions will take over." The focus did indeed shift, to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), after the ICCAT meeting failed to set sustainable quotas for the 2009 fishing season.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Protecting the Bluefin Tuna

Zoe Beckett
First Officer, Steve Irwin

Zoe BeckettAs we prepare for the start of the bluefin tuna (BFT) campaign, it is becoming increasingly obvious how economic stakeholders are going to fiercely defend their unsustainable fishing practices. I expect aggressive tactics will confront us as they attempt to secure their assists and continue their poaching practices. When will these people realise that globally protecting BFT and allowing their populations to regenerate is the greatest asset to our seas, our world and subsequently us? Protecting the BFT will stabilise the oceans ecosystems from the current drastic imbalance from over fishing of large pelagic predators such as BFT, sharks, and whales. If key species such as the BFT become extinct, inevitably the ocean ecosystem will collapse, and then the ocean will die, and shortly after that so will we.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Preparing for Operation Blue Rage

Locky MacLean
Captain, M/Y Steve Irwin

Lockhart-MacleanOn March 15th, after only 8 days in port following an intense 3 month Antarctic Campaign, the Steve Irwin let her dock lines go and began a 60 day journey towards the Mediterranean Sea, the staging ground for Sea Shepherd’s upcoming Tuna Defense Campaign, Operation Blue Rage.

With little time for landfall, and a crew of 18 on board, the Steve Irwin has been tracking steadily eastwards half way around the world via New Zealand, Pitcairn, Panama Canal, the Caribbean, and the North Atlantic.

We now find ourselves off the coast of Florida, just a few days from making landfall in New York City on Earth Day, where we will make preparations for our last puddle jump across to Europe, and begin Operation Blue Rage.

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