Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Report from Captain Paul Watson, Steve Irwin
It is not difficult to find boats towing net loads of bluefin to tuna fattening farms in Malta or Tunisia. Everywhere we look, we see these slow moving towing operations, and everywhere we go we see military escorts protecting and hopefully also observing the operations of these vessels.
The early morning brought us the Turkish seiner Habib Reis III hauling a net, and later in the morning we came across the Tunisian seiner Beni Hassem. Hovering close by all morning was the French frigate F797 and the Maltese naval vessel P51.
We decided to investigate the catch of the Beni Hassem and requested the cooperation of the Maltese patrol boat. They agreed to let us get into the water to ascertain the size of the fish in the net. The Maltese naval officers were very helpful and stood by as our divers filmed the fish contained in the net. Although we spotted some juvenile fish, we could not spot enough to justify a legal intervention.
We carried on with our patrol, although we still had not encountered any unlicensed vessels. However, we appreciated the increased vigilance of the naval patrols.
With six more days of legal fishing operations, we were prepared to continue to be distracted by the legal vessels. However at noon, we received notice that Maria Damanki, the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries decided to close the bluefin tuna fishery to all purse seiners in the Mediterranean and the Eastern Atlantic. It appeared that the legal quota had been taken.
After midnight tonight, any fishing activities on bluefin tuna will be illegal and subject to intervention by Sea Shepherd. There is now officially a zero tolerance on overfishing of the bluefin tuna.
At last, the time has come (and five days early at that) for Sea Shepherd to legally intervene against any bluefin tuna fishing activity we can encounter.