After spending nearly two months in the South Pacific on its latest shark campaign, Operation Requiem, working in several island nations on marine protection, outreach, education and partnerships, Sea Shepherd concluded the final leg of the campaign doing what it is best known for — enforcement.
The first enforcement collaboration of its kind in the South Pacific, Sea Shepherd was honored to partner with the nation of Kiribati to address illegal fishing and reverse the decline of the shark population in Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). Working with the Ministry of Fisheries, Maritime Police and PIPA Director, Sea Shepherd sent its vessel, the MV Brigitte Bardot, and a crew of ten to assist in the surveillance and enforcement of PIPA, one of the world’s largest marine protected areas covering more than 107,000 square miles.
“We’ve been working collaboratively and successfully with the government of Ecuador for years in the Galapagos protecting the sharks and stopping illegal fishing — we wanted to do the same in the South Pacific. The Phoenix Island Protected Area, another world heritage site, was the perfect place and the forward-thinking government of Kiribati agreed,” said Julie Andersen, Operation Requiem Leader and Director of Shark Campaigns for Sea Shepherd.
Enforcement naturally falls on the shoulders of governments often under-resourced and over- allocated. This is where Sea Shepherd can and does help — both financially and logistically — the recent efforts fully funded by Sea Shepherd.
“We really appreciate the generous support from Sea Shepherd in patrolling the PIPA waters. The presence of your vessel in the area and making checks on several fishing vessels undoubtedly deterred illegal fishing in PIPA waters,” said Tukabu Teroroko, Director of PIPA.
With SPC Ieakana Tiban, a ten-year seasoned veteran of the Kiribati Police Maritime Unit onboard the Bardot, the team performed the first-ever patrol in the area over the last few weeks. Thanks to vessel monitoring system (VMS) coordinates supplied by the Kiribati police and over 500 vessels from around the world legally permitted to fish within the area, the team had their work cut out for them. Covering nearly 2,000 miles, they stopped, boarded and inspected purse seine and long-lining vessels with potential of carrying a combined gross tonnage of over 7,200. In doing so, Sea Shepherd has proven they have the resources and experience unlike those of other conservation organizations that they are willing to put at the disposal of South Pacific nations.
John Mote, Commander, Kiribati Maritime Police agreed: “We commend Sea Shepherd for supporting the enforcement efforts of PIPA. The Sea Shepherd crew has been extremely professional and collaborative, and we look forward to expanding this program in the future.”
There are several areas around the world in need of assistance, but the South Pacific has become an important focus for Sea Shepherd due to remaining shark populations, progressive leadership, cultural significance, and reliance upon the oceans for economic livelihood. Sea Shepherd stands ready to work with other governments and local agencies to protect their waters, like they have in Kiribati and the Galapagos. Similar offers have been made to other countries in the South Pacific, and the area as well as the issue will remain a long-term focus for Sea Shepherd.
Andersen added, “Not only have we done some critical enforcement on our patrols, we’ve illustrated that we seek collaboration not confrontation with the island nations of the South Pacific. The last thing we want is to sabotage legitimate governmental and conservation efforts; illegal, unregulated and wasteful fishing is our focus, of which the local communities are the casualty. Our intentions are genuine and supportive of the South Pacific’s leadership, culture and economy along with their marine ecosystems and, of course, one of their most critical residents — sharks.”
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