The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will not be getting much rest after the Japanese whaling season ends following Operation Waltzing Matilda.
Both Sea Shepherd ships, the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, will head for the Mediterranean from the Southern Ocean. The objective will be to intercept and oppose the illegal operations of Bluefin tuna poachers.
"We need to bring to the attention of the international public that one of the most unique fish species in the world, the Bluefin tuna, is on the brink of extinction due to the illegal fisheries driven by Japan's insatiable demand for this expensive fish," says Sea Shepherd Founder and President Captain Paul Watson.
Two weeks ago a single Bluefin tuna sold to Japan for ?111,000.
With this high a price on its head, the days of this species surviving are numbered. As the fish becomes more rare, the prices paid for it will become higher. This is the economics and politics of extinction.
The Mediterranean tuna industry, which is supported by tens of millions of Euros in subsidies, has driven the Bluefin to the brink of extinction. Populations are within three years of total collapse.
Yet corruption, and the rising market value of the Bluefin is preventing any real conservation efforts.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meets in March to debate banning trade in the Bluefin. Yet in the lead up to the meeting, the European Union has taken the Bluefin off the agenda so as not to offend the fishermen of France, Malta, Italy, and Greece.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has tried to ban Bluefin tuna fishing but has had his arm twisted by his own fishermen. He is now trying to ban the export of Bluefin to Japan, and this will help greatly, but French fishermen have threatened to blockade ports if they don't get what they want.
This is a crucial year in the battle to save the Bluefin tuna.
Sea Shepherd intends to confront the poachers and will not back down to threats and violence from the fishermen. Our campaigns in the Southern Ocean against Japanese whalers for the last six years has given us the experience and the resolve to tackle the violence of poachers anywhere in the world.
"We may lose a ship, but the loss of a ship is preferable to the loss of the Bluefin as a species," said Captain Paul Watson. "Ships are expendable, species are not."
Photo Credit : Gary Stokes / OceanicLove.com
Photo Credit : Kim McCoy / Sea Shepherd Conservation Society