Monday, June 14, 2010

Sea Shepard Releases 800 Captured Bluefin Tuna

CAUGHT: The two nets, one of which was holding 800 tuna that were released by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Photo courtesy: Wildlife Extra News

June 2010 will be remembered as the month the Steve Irwin with Captain Paul Watson and crew released 800 illegally caught bluefin tuna. The divers from the Sea Sheperd Conservation Society engaged in a dramatic confrontation with fishermen in Libyan waters.

Capt. Watson and his crew discovered two fishing vessels towing two cages. One of the cages contained approx. 800 fish while the second cage was empty. Capt. Watson was unhappy with the crew's explanation about how, when and where these tuna were caught. Suspecting that quotas were being ignored, Capt. Watson brought the bow of the Steve Irwin up to the cages to get a better look.

"At this point," says Capt. Watson, "one of the fishing boats rammed the Steve Irwin and a fisherman tried to violently gaff Sea Shepherd crew members with a long, sharp-hooked pole. The Steve Irwin crew retaliated with eight litres of rotten butter forcing the fishing vessel to retreat and to stand off."

The two fishing vessels began circling their cages in a defensive and suspicious manner. Sea Sheperd notified the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna of possible violations; but, they did not respond.

Divers knew they must cut the nets and free the tuna.

GREAT ESCAPE: Simon Ager captures the moment the tuna are let out of the net. Photo courtesy: Wildlife Extra News

Capt. Watson explains how the rescue came to be: "With two fishing vessels containing angry Italian crews, there were risks involved with getting into the water to assess the bluefin catch, but if the catch was illegal, Sea Shepherd divers knew they must cut the nets and free the bluefin tuna.

"A five-person dive crew entered one of two cages being towed by the main fishing vessel to identify the size, age, and quantity of the bluefin tuna within. Once it was clearly established that the cage was overstocked and that a high percentage were juveniles, Sea Shepherd divers freed the 700-800 tuna.

"It is our position that the bluefin tuna we freed from that cage held a large number of juveniles and that the fish were caught after the official closure of the season. It is also our position that the fish that we freed exceeded the quota."

Canadian cameraman, Simon Ager, a Sea Shepherd crew member filmed the release of the tuna from the center of the cage. Swimmers confirm that all 700 - 800 tuna inside the enclosure were freed.

"They shot out of that net like racehorses," said Simon Ager.

Via Wildlife Extra News

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