Saturday, June 19th, 2010
Location: Off the Coast of Libya
At 0900 Hours the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin moved into Libyan waters to inspect the remaining cage being towed by the Italian vessel Cesare Rustico. With the Sea Shepherd helicopter overhead, our inflatable Delta boat and dive team approached the cage.
The Cesare Rustico dropped the tow line and turned to defend the cage. At the same time the fishing vessels the Tagreft and the Rabbah 1060, along with the trawler Misurate 96, moved in quickly to defend their illegal catch of Bluefin.
Immediately and without warning, the Steve Irwin was attacked with a barrage of flares aimed at the wheelhouse and the crew on deck. The Cesare Rustico issued a May Day distress signal saying they were under attack by the Steve Irwin even though the our crew had merely approached the cage to inspect the catch. Most worrying was the fact that the Sea Shepherd helicopter piloted by Chris Aultman was painted by the Libyan airborne radar system.
At that point, in the interest of safety, I ordered the Delta inflatable and helicopter to return to the Steve Irwin. We then retreated to a safe distance away from the waters claimed by Libya. The two vessels Tagreft and the Rabbah 1060 pursued and continued to fire flares at the us. We were able to lose them quickly.
The Captain of the Cesare Rustico radioed the Tagreft and Rabbah 1060 to, "do whatever you can to damage them so they will never return."
The Captain of the Cesare Rustico said that the Libyan Navy was within a few miles and closing in. However there were no Libyan naval vessels within thirty miles on the radar.
Yesterday the Steve Irwin requested the assistance of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise to liberate the estimated 800 Bluefin tuna in this cage but they declined to assist. A contact within Greenpeace informed us that under no circumstances was Greenpeace to enter waters claimed by Libya..
The Steve Irwin is now heading towards Cyprus and Turkey in search of Bluefin poachers.
Fishing vessels, with the Misurate 96 in the foreground
Smoke from flares shot by the Misurate 96 can be seen off its bow