Photo: Miemo Penttinen
Sea Shepherd Global has stopped a notorious illegal Chinese driftnet fishing fleet – The Fu Yuan Yu – from operating.
In February, the oceanic watchdogs launched Operation Driftnet, a campaign aimed at stopping driftnet fishing, which was outlawed worldwide over 20 years ago. Driftnets are large nets that can be used to scoop up anything and everything in the water around them, and often capture endangered species like sharks, turtles and whales as bycatch.
Sea Shepherd’s vessel, the STEVE IRWIN, spied and documented three Fu Yuan Yu ships driftnet fishing in the Indian Ocean, then informed the Chinese government. The conservationists persistently followed the fleet back to Chinese waters where Chinese authorities overtook the pursuit.
“We attached great importance to this case and immediately conducted a detailed and comprehensive investigation,” wrote Liling Zhao, the director of the Division of Deep Sea Fishing at the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, on June 24, 2016.
After reviewing the case, the Chinese government suspended fishing licenses for all six of the ships in the Fu Yuan Yu fleet, fined the company roughly $300,000 USD for each of the 3 vessels caught in the Indian Ocean and nullified the certification of those vessels’ captains.
“This intervention…has sent a strong message to Chinese flagged ships around the Globe that China is serious about international fisheries law and enforcement,” said Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd’s founder.
China is one of the world’s largest seafood and wildlife trafficking hotspots. The Chinese government has been historically lackadaisical about targeting people or organizations involved in the illegal seafood and wildlife trade. This is an important case because, as STEVE IRWIN’s Captain Sid Chakravarty pointed out, “the actions of the Chinese government clearly illustrate that they view fisheries crime very seriously.”