New Zealand Confronts Three Illegal Fishing Boats In Antarctica and Then Lets Them Go When Captains Refuse To Let Them Board

85906-songhua-starboard77606-wutaishan-anhui-44-sternThere was a curious confrontation between the New Zealand navy this month and three notorious boats illegally poaching in the waters near Antarctica. The Navy caught the boats red-handed poaching and using illegal nets. The Navy called over for the three rust buckets to stop the illegal operation and the boats simply refused. The Navy called over again that it wanted to board to check their documentation and the boats said know. They simply continued to poach in front of the Navy and then the New Zealanders let them leave without firing a shot. This was called a victory by the New Zealand Navy but I am not sure why.

220px-Dmawsoni_Head_shot220px-HMNZS_WellingtonThere has been a devastating poaching market in Antarctica for Antarctic toothfish, marketed in North America as Chilean sea bass. These three ships have been at the heart of the poaching business — operating under false names and false flags in open defiance of international law. That is why it was a stroke of luck for the New Zealanders to catch these criminals between January 6th to January 13th. However, the Navy decided that the large swells made it too difficult to board the ship by force and allowed them to just slip away with their holds full of illegal fish — caught in front of the Navy. While the Navy is hoping to make it difficult for the ships to unload their catch, I still do not see how the Navy could let the Kunlun, the Songhua and the Yongding simply slip away rather than follow them. The ships have claimed North Korea, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Panama, Indonesia and Equatorial Guinea and the Kunlun has been called the Black Moon, the Galaxy and the Dorita. The only way to stop them is to follow and eventually board them and arrest the criminals. Fines clearly are not sufficient. In 2008, the Songhua was named the Paloma V, traced to a Spanish company, Vidal Armadores. In 2010, the company was fined 150,000 euros for participating in illegal fishing activities but the Navy believes that the company is still involved in the illegal trade.

Songhua-2015-640pxI do not understand why the Navy could not follow or fire warning shots or disable the boats. The last option would seem to let these habitual offenders escape with holds full of illegal fish. I certainly agree that the Navy should not risk any lives with a forced boarding in bad seas, but I do not get why the three ships were allowed to escape from a faster and sturdier war ship. These crews (and the owners) need jail time and the responsible company needs to be put out of business. The brazen defiance shown in continuing to fish in front of the Navy shows the utter lack of deterrence for poachers. I do believe that the Navy gathered important evidence (and photos) and I contend New Zealand for pursuing these poachers. However, their film captured a serious disconnect between international law and its enforcement. These criminals are rational actors. They made a calculus of risk and found little real threat to their continuing to commit crimes in front of a war ship. This was an opportunity missed and, unless there is a change in the level of pursuit and force used against poachers, we will see the continued devastation of this area.




18 thoughts on “New Zealand Confronts Three Illegal Fishing Boats In Antarctica and Then Lets Them Go When Captains Refuse To Let Them Board”

  1. Fishing needs to be regulated by nation states which adhere to laws of the sea and international laws respecting human rights (not fish rights). But there are vast pirate territories bordering the seas which neither control pirates or fishing. Some fishing boaters who fish without borders are similar to doctors without borders. However when they come back to America with Ebola it requires regulation. If you know what I mean jelly bean.

  2. That said, the majority of unexplored area of the ocean is in deep water. Unless the fish stocks are deep water fish, they cannot be hidden in unexplored depths.

    Without any restraint, the natural order of things is for fishermen around the world to simply fish each species to collapse, and then move on to another species. Why restrain oneself if one’s neighbor is going to fish a species to extinction? There is no benefit if everyone doesn’t agree to follow fishing guidelines to preserve the longevity of the stock.

  3. personannongrata – environmental pressure is what drives evolution, and extinction is for the experiments that fail to adapt. Without environmental pressure or change, there can be no adaptation or evolution.

  4. get a shrimper out there to consult. Just ride right over his net line and cut the cable. whoops.

  5. The so called Navy gathered important evidence (and photos), provided at the link, show absolutely nothing aside from some ships steaming at sea in international waters that do not even have any fishing gear deployed.

    Under the specious guise of stewardship (ie protecting fish stocks) the world’s governing entities, with knowledge of less than 5% of Earth’s oceans, seek to deny humanities inherent right to access the oceans for food (regardless of nationality).

    Perhaps, just perhaps, all the so-called depleted fish stock (cod, mackerel, sardines, blue-fin etal) have simply migrated to other ocean locales unknown to commercial fishing fleets.

    To call for the arrest, firing of shots across the bow or the seizure of a ship in international waters for simply fishing (and the ships in the photos weren’t even doing that they were steaming not fishing) is the height of insanity.

    How much of the ocean have we explored?

    To date, we have explored less than five percent of the ocean.

    PS Extinction is the natural state of affairs on planet Earth, get used to it, as 99% of all creatures that have lived on Earth have gone extinct via natural processes.

    More than 99% of all species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct. The vast majority (over 95%) died out because they couldn’t compete successfully for food or other resources. Or they failed to adapt to changes in their local environment over tens or even hundreds of millions of years.

  6. When I first read ‘rust buckets’ I thought it was going to be an over statement, but aren’t there safetly laws for crew on the sea? Anything that rusty is probably not being maintained elsewhere. Although, this could be its last voyage and why pour money into her now.

  7. Is that the state of the New Zealand Navy that these rusty tubs could outmaneuver them and slip away? I’m glad our own navy is a bit more serious. I would not want to endanger any seamen in boarding under unsafe conditions, but to have lost them entirely, and the targets in such disrepair. Embarrassing.

    Not much teeth to international poaching laws.

  8. New Zealand obviously use the French model of enforcement. Maybe they need to contract w/ Somali pirates to teach them how to board boats.

  9. They should make them go to New Zealand port. Offload the fish for free public use. Offload the fuel on board. Tow boat out beyond 15 mlle limit and radio all pirates in the area to have at them.

  10. xyz

    Practice, that is what their purpose is: Somali pirates, the thugs in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, and other madness. The Russians took the opportunity properly to test out their weapons. The Somali pirates complied.

    The US needs to follow suit. The US military is overpopulated with soldiers capable of being deployed in ways that no longer exist. The future of warfare lies against terrorists and deploying rapid surgical moves coordinated with high tech weaponry, accurate and immediate logistics, and highly trained special forces. Drones should be outfitted with guns like this and sent in to patrol areas where thugs are operating. Why wait until being attacked?

  11. The same thing used to happen off the shores of Canada with ‘vacuum ships’. These, typically Korean, on the West Coast and Spanish on the East Coast, ships would vacuum everything in their path. This helped deplete the Cod on the East Coast and Salmon on the West Coast. Eventually through diplomacy and events like a Canadian Frigate chasing a Spanish ship half way to Spain and bringing it back against a torrent of diplomatic whining by the Spanish focusing on the open seas apprehension, sovereign territory, etc, the practice subsided. It still goes on with drift nets and other mindless practices.

    Canada, Europe, and the US should extend their fishing rights to five hundred miles out from shore and confiscate any ships fishing inside the limits. It would be too much to expect to arm Greenpeace ships and have them patrol the seas, but one can only dream.

    As for New Zealand, if the navy vessel was not equipped and other forces were not available, the ships illegally fishing probably would have been able to leave anyway. At least this way the fishing was interrupted. The ships are now targeted. They would be perfect prey for armed Greenpeace ships and Greenpeace commandos. Now there is a movie, I would like to see, bearded vegetarians, attacking rusting fishing vessels.

  12. Unbelievable. And to think that Rommel considered Anzac divisions to be elite troops.

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