On February 10th, Australian authorities boarded and apprehended three Indonesian fishing vessels near Raine Island, 600 kilometers north of Cairns. The seizure on the Northeast coast of Australia resulted in 27 crewmembers taken into custody and the boats sunk at sea.
Raine Island is the world's largest remaining rookery for the vulnerable green turtle and it is a protected, no-go zone. A spokesman for the Federal Fisheries Minister Eric Abetz couldn't say whether turtle meat was found on board the boats. Queensland's Environment Minister Desley Boyle says it's disturbing news, "Only this week, we had declared this to be the year of the turtle. It is one of the few breeding sites left." A search is continuing for other illegal fishing boats believed to be in the area.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is very supportive of Australia's aggressive policy towards illegal fishing, but the Society remains concerned that Australia is practicing a double standard in regard to Japanese fishing and whaling operations.
Japanese tuna vessels are taking tens of millions of dollars worth of tuna from Australian waters and Japanese whalers are illegally killing piked (minke) and fin whales in the Australian Antarctic Territory without any measures being taken to intervene against these illegal practices.
The message that Australia is sending is that they will target poor nations while alternatively allowing rich trading partners to plunder Australian resources.
Sea Shepherd urges Australia to apply marine conservation laws without prejudice and to treat Japanese poachers in the same manner that they treat Indonesian poachers.