Back on June 17, 2010, Sea Shepherd's Operation Blue Rage intercepted an illegal bluefin tuna operation off the coast of Libya, two days after the closing of the bluefin fishing season.
We investigated the catch and found hundreds of undersized bluefin tuna. When we asked to see the papers, the fishermen refused. When we asked to speak with the official observer onboard, we were told there was no observer. A few minutes later we were told there was an observer, and a man came on the radio and identified himself as the "official observer." We asked for his name and authorization; he refused to provide it.
We had no doubts that this was a criminal operation:
- The fish were obtained after the closing date of the fishing season
- Many of the fish within the pen were juveniles
- The fishing vessel did not have an inspector onboard
- The captain refused to show us any paperwork on the catch
- The fishermen were dishonest regarding where they had obtained the fish
We made the determination that the fish in the net had been caught illegally and we sent divers into the water to cut the net and to release some 800 bluefin tuna.
In July 2011, just over a year later, when the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin was in Scotland preparing to depart for the Faroe Islands, the Scottish Court imposed a bond on my ship of 530,000 pounds Sterling (approx. $791,000) as surety pending the outcome of a lawsuit by the Maltese fishing company, Fish and Fish.