Operation Icefish Retrieves 25 Kilometers of Illegal Gill Net
Finally after 98 hours of continuous hauling, all 25 kilometers of poaching vessel, Thunder's destructive gill net has been retrieved by the crew of Sea Shepherd vessel, Sam Simon. The fishing gear was abandoned by the Thunder when it fled from Sea Shepherd vessel, Bob Barker on December 17.
The total weight of the net is 14 tons. Approximately 200 vulnerable toothfish, including females with eggs, were found dead. Other species of marine life, including crabs, rays, cod, icefish and jellyfish have also been found dead.
A majority of the crabs were removed from the nets still alive, and they have been returned to the Southern Ocean.
The 30 international crew from 15 different nations onboard the Sam Simon worked long and hard in harsh and frigid conditions, in one of the most remote and hostile areas of the ocean-the "shadowlands" off the coast of Antarctica, due south of India. The crew worked around the clock in four-hour shifts, hauling the net from a depth of two kilometers. The galley crew were operating 24 hours each day to keep the deck shifts fed and warm with tea and coffee, and the medical officer has been prescribing pain-killers for stiff necks and back pains. The bridge team worked four hours on deck, then four hours on the bridge and eight off, then back to the cycle again.
Meanwhile, the Thunder, which unsuccessfully tried to shake the Bob Barker through heavy ice and severe storms, has left the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) management region. The Bob Barker is still firmly on its stern in pursuit. The Thunder could possibly be heading towards the port of Maputo in Mozambique, where the authorities have been notified.
Twelve months ago, Interpol issued a Purple Notice for the Thunder, which is listed as the most notorious of the Southern Ocean poaching vessels. Sea Shepherd has intercepted and shut down the criminal operations of this ship and its crew of pirates.
The Sam Simon will resume patrols to look for the vessels of five other suspected toothfish poaching operations in the Southern Ocean.