Australian gov’t seizes toothfish poacher Kunlun
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Australian gov’t seizes toothfish poacher Kunlun

The Australian government has finally decided to do something about illegal fishing vessels. And when Australian Customs officials recently took out their patrol ship they met Kunlun, a notorious and elusive poaching vessel cruising on its way with a massive haul of Patagonian toothfish.

Kunlun was intercepted west of Cocos Island (Keeling) on Thursday. The Sea Shepherd suspects the vessel was en route from the Antarctic to Southeast Asia to offload its illegal catch.

The Federal government has long argued that sending patrol boats to a suspected area does not solve illegal fishing, and it is better to instead work with countries in Asia to deny the illegal fishers access to ports.

The Sea Shepherd crew commends the sudden change of attitude and calls on the immediate arrest of people on board once the vessel arrives at the nearest port.

Sea Shepherd has taken the sole responsibility of patrolling and chasing illegal fishing vessels while the government has not been amenable to the idea. The group has also been vilified by a few governmental and academic bodies about its dangerous activities of chasing and intercepting whaling ships and other poaching vessels in international waters but its crew members and supporters have fought back and continue to do what no one dares to do for the sake of the oceans.

The Sea Shepherd has been hunting Kunlun since it was first intercepted on February 2.  Sam Simon found the vessel inside Australian waters, then pursued the vessel out of its hunting grounds in the Southern Ocean. The vessel was first seized by the New Zealand Navy in Australian waters in January.

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Kunlun, taken on 7 January 2015 in CCAMLR Area. Pic: Interpol.

Captain Sid Chakravarty of the Sam Simon said, “For the past three months, the Australian government has claimed that taking port action against toothfish poachers is more effective that patrolling. It is encouraging to see that they have changed their tune.”

Chakravarty added his crew believes in Australia’s leadership: “We’ve seen the Australian government take its leadership in the Southern Ocean seriously when they took Japan to the International Court of Justice on the issue of whaling. We now need strong action from Australia to show that illegal fishing will not be tolerated in the Southern Ocean, and that the only action that will see an end to the Kunlun’s poaching career is arrest and seizure at sea.”

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Australia Customs officials boarded on Interpool-wanted Kunlun.
/>Pic: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

The Kunlun has a long history of illegal fishing activity. It is included on the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) blacklist of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing vessels. Last month, the vessel was issued with an Interpol Purple Notice after it was caught fishing illegally in Australian waters in the Southern Ocean by the New Zealand Navy.

The Kunlun is one of six vessels that are known to still engage in IUU fishing for Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean.

The Bob Barker is currently engaged in a record-breaking pursuit of the most notorious of the six vessels, the Nigerian-flagged Thunder, after it was intercepted on the Banzare Bank in Antarctica on December 17.

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