Saturday, June 12th, 2010
Location: Off the Coast of Libya
This morning the crew of the Steve Irwin came across the fifty meter Italian seiner Kleos towing a cage full of bluefin tuna. The ship was being inspected by the ICCAT (International Committee on the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna) fisheries patrol vessel Jean Charcot. The vessel was legal but routine inspections are conducted to ensure that the catch is of the proper size. We witnessed the ICCAT divers inspecting the catch and then continued on south towards Libya and the coast of North Africa.
The ICCAT inspection vessel informed us that although Libya comes under the regulations, they do not conduct inspections in the waters that Libya claims authority over. The Libyan navy undertakes their own inspections.
The Greenpeace crews refused to enter Libyan waters back in 2007, and have never done so during the fishing season. Today, the crew of the Steve Irwin decided to enter Libyan waters for the first time to observe the tuna fishery.
The winds continue to blow between twenty and forty knots, which means no fishing can happen.
So far the crew of the Steve Irwin have not seen any sign of illegal fishing activity. Here is good reason to believe that poaching activity has been lessened due to increased enforcement activities and the growing international awareness of the threat to the bluefin tuna.
It is frustrating to see the cages full of bluefin tuna being transported to tuna farms off Malta and Tunisia, but due to the compromise brokered at the last CITES meeting, these legal takes are untouchable. Sea Shepherd, being an anti-poaching organization, is limited to targeting the illegal activities.
What I find striking is what we do not see. I have navigated these waters since 1971, and there has been a steady diminishment. There are few birds and we have not seen a single dolphin or whale during this entire voyage. I remember when there was never a time that birds were not following the ship and never a day that we did not see a pod of dolphins or whales. The sad fact is that we forget what we have lost as we adapt to diminishment.