Due to the generosity of our supporters around the world, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has raised over $735,000 to save the flagship Steve Irwin--less than two weeks after the launch of our SOS! - Save Our Ship fundraising campaign! Thank you to everyone who helped make it possible for us to fund a bond to release the vessel from detainment! Together, we will continue to make a difference.
As many of you are aware, on July 15, the Steve Irwin was detained in the Scottish Shetland Islands pending our ability to fund a bond we estimated to be in the amount of USD $1,411,692.87. The detainment was ordered by British courts due to a civil lawsuit brought against us by Maltese fishing company Fish & Fish Limited.
Thankfully, the bond was posted earlier today, and the Steve Irwin will soon depart to the Faeroes for Operation Ferocious Isles. The Steve Irwin will join the vessel Brigitte Bardot and her crew, who are already onsite defending pilot whales.
The British court set the bond today at 520,000 British pounds (approximately $846,290 USD). Once the exact amount was set, Sea Shepherd UK Director Darren Collis scrambled to the bank and set up the money transfer (to the court) with only one minute to spare--and the bond was posted!
A court date has not been set for the civil case brought against Sea Shepherd by the Maltese bluefin tuna company Fish & Fish Limited. However, Sea Shepherd is ready to battle with this company that is contributing to the demise of the imperiled bluefin. We firmly believe we caught their boats red-handed, unlawfully taking bluefin tuna from Libyan waters. We have evidence, and we look forward to our day in court against these plunderers of the ocean.
Fish & Fish has a history of using the legal system to harass their opposition. In 2007, journalist Raphael Vassallo with the publication Malta Today began writing about local tuna companies. He pointed out alleged shortcomings in import-export data, fattening rates that appeared biologically impossible, and a case of illegally re-flagged vessels. Vassallo and his newspaper were later served with a civil suit in what he described as "a mass libel legal action by all five companies" on the island -- Ta'Mattew Fish Farms, Fish & Fish Tuna Ranch, Malta Fish Farms, AJD Tuna, and Mare Blu Tuna Ranch. The companies accused Vassallo of being responsible for financial losses caused by his "libelous" and "defamatory" allegations.
The charges against Vassallo were eventually dropped but the tuna companies continue to sue the newspaper because the lawsuit functions to prevent the newspaper from reporting on the issue.
Fish & Fish are trying to intimidate Sea Shepherd as well, and hoping to cripple us financially, and thus reduce our ability to oppose tuna poaching in the Mediterranean.
"We will not be unsettled or bullied by their wealth and their reputation of using litigation to silence their opposition. The bluefin tuna is on the threshold of extinction," said Sea Shepherd Founder and President Captain Paul Watson. "We owe it to this species to fight the poachers on the sea, in the media, and in the courts. We acted justly in intervening against their illegal operation. And win or lose, we believe that the bluefin tuna--an awesome, magnificent species on the brink of extinction--is worth whatever money and effort we can muster to save it." Sea Shepherd's mission Operation Blue Rage will continue to intervene against bluefin tuna poachers.
"There is no court, no corporation, and no government on earth that will convince us that it is wrong to prevent the extinction of these fish," said Captain Watson. "The economics of extinction is what we are fighting. Diminishment drives up prices and as the populations of fish in the oceans plummet, the price of frozen fish in the warehouses increases and this, the most expensive fish in the world will become even more expensive. With extinction, the frozen corpses become priceless. This is greed at the height of depravity, showing no respect for nature or regard to future generations, and we will not stand by and allow the bluefin to slip into the oblivion of biological extinction. Whatever the cost, whatever the risk, we intend to defend the bluefin tuna."
We sincerely thank everyone that donated to help Save Our Ship. Your help enabled us to 'Free the Steve' and it will soon be on its way to the Faeroes. However, despite everyone's best efforts, we had to cut into our already scarce budget to meet the bond amount and 'Free the Steve.' We face the ongoing costs of Operation Ferocious Isles, the transit of our vessels from the northern hemisphere to the southern for Operation Divine Wind, and finally, the cost of that Antarctic campaign as well. We are all on the same crew, despite our different roles and varying locations. We all feel that inner drive to protect innocent lives and ecosystems, and I know many of you have given what you can-- but please keep your donations coming in. Without your help, we cannot continue this important work.
"We are in a war to save our oceans from ourselves," said Captain Watson. "And if we lose, we all lose because if the oceans die, we all die - it's as simple as that."
Please continue to support us and keep our ships at sea, doing what they do best!