A Renegade Trawler, Hunted For 10,000 Miles By Vigilantes
July 29, 2015 9:24 PM   Subscribe

It was an unexpected end to an extraordinary chase. For 110 days and more than 10,000 nautical miles across two seas and three oceans, the Bob Barker and a companion ship, both operated by the environmental organization Sea Shepherd, had trailed the trawler, with the three captains close enough to watch one another’s cigarette breaks and on-deck workout routines. In an epic game of cat-and-mouse, the ships maneuvered through an obstacle course of giant ice floes, endured a cyclone-like storm, faced clashes between opposing crews and nearly collided in what became the longest pursuit of an illegal fishing vessel in history. (SLNYT)
posted by Johnny Wallflower (23 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is a great story, everyone should read it.

But this was my favorite bit:

The fish that the Sam Simon’s crew were pulling on board had been trapped underwater in the nets and were starting to decompose. With gas building up inside the carcasses, some of the fish exploded as they slammed onto the deck. Many members of the crew, most of them vegans, cried or vomited.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:45 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Beware several forced auto-playing videos. If you pause them, they restart if you scroll the page.
posted by ryanrs at 10:22 PM on July 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Those were terrifically intrusive and detracted from what was otherwise a good article.

With today's technology there should be no pirate ships. Allowing rogue fishing is inexcusable.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:54 PM on July 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you pause the video, move the mouse slooowly over to the left, then down, then back under the video, again slowly, it seems to work, at least for me. Other than that I actually like the presentation, none of that stupid photograph sliding up over your text stuff a lot of other 'serious' websites are doing.

Kind of shitty that with all the naval power that's just sitting around doing exercises and stuff that we can't do better than an NGO to deal with illegal fishing/whaling. On the other hand considering that a lot of the crews onboard these ships may actually be slaves it's better to let this get handled unarmed. I'm glad someone is out there looking out for the ocean.
posted by mcrandello at 10:54 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Everyone should also read the story of how the journalists got onto the Sam Simon,
After lining up a ride on a port police cutter, Selase and I dashed to the store to buy supplies (peanut butter, backup batteries, antinausea medicine and powdered lemonade), and then we embarked. The plan was to get to our location early, drop anchor, and wait (likely for about 20 hours) for a Sea Shepherd skiff to pick us up. Things did not go as planned.

Only one of the 10 members of the crew on the port police boat had ever been in waters more than a dozen miles from shore. When we got about 70 miles off the coast, the waves tripled in size; we burned through a great deal of fuel getting through them. Fearing that we were going to capsize or run out of diesel, several of the sailors panicked.
posted by pmv at 11:48 PM on July 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is part four of a series 'The Outlaw Ocean'. The writer Ian Urbina was also just interviewed on the Longform podcast about the reporting behind the series.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:11 AM on July 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think I basically am in support of the Sea Shepherd people, but they're basically a catastrophic shipwreck waiting to happen
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:45 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


While this is a really fascinating story, and I think what the Sea Shepherd folks did here was much less squicky than when they were doing the "Whale Wars" TV show, I still can't see this as any kind of a solution. Vigilantes on the high seas are a disaster just waiting to happen. From a humanitarian perspective, I'd love to see a major naval force (like the US Navy, the largest and most advanced naval force in human history) go after ships like this and the slave ships in the previous installment. But it's one of those things where intervention would inevitably become a problem of its own, tied up with sovereignty and brutality etc. You've really got to find ways to make this kind of operations unworkable (for instance, require improved scrutiny of fishing practices for import) rather than throwing either vigilantes or military after them.
posted by graymouser at 7:07 AM on July 30, 2015


Gotta love Bob Barker!
posted by Oyéah at 7:23 AM on July 30, 2015


graymouser: You've really got to find ways to make this kind of operations unworkable (for instance, require improved scrutiny of fishing practices for import) rather than throwing either vigilantes or military after them.

You're going to ensure good scrutiny of imported fish everywhere? Because as long as there are some open markets, there will be a buck in it, and people will do it. It seems to be a rule of humanity that there are always people willing to ruin natural resources for everyone if there's a dollar to be made and nobody stopping them by force.

Personally, I say send the military. Arrest the captain and the upper-level crew, and interview the lower-level crew to see if they're enslaved, with promises of asylum if they are. If they are, seize the ship, sell or scrap it, and split the proceeds among the enslaved crew members. Give them asylum, imprison the captain and responsible crew members for life, and charge the flagging nation the full cost of the entire affair.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:30 AM on July 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


The US Navy has a page about fighting piracy called "Fighting Piracy." It says squat about hunting illegal fishing operations. I agree that this seems like a gimme: the Navy gets practice, US fishing operations get economic protection because they're not undercut by the illegal operations, and FIGHTING fishing PIRATES.

Yaaaar.
posted by RakDaddy at 9:17 AM on July 30, 2015


Though its ships are unarmed, Sea Shepherd is not averse to confrontation. The group is best known for its antiwhaling campaigns, which have included ramming Japanese vessels. Some critics dismiss its work — depicted on “Whale Wars,” the Animal Planet television show — as counterproductive publicity stunts.

Some critics can shut the fuck up.
posted by flabdablet at 9:28 AM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Everyone should also read the story of how the journalists got onto the Sam Simon

Oh, yes:
As we waited and watched the horizon for the Sam Simon, the captain of the cargo ship grew increasingly agitated. He said he did not like the idea of meeting up with a ship he could not see on radar and whose crew and captain he did not know personally. We explained that the Sam Simon had turned off its locational transponder so that the Thunder would not realize how far it had peeled off from the chase.
That's pretty sketchy. The transponder is a system that prevents collisions at sea. It looks like they're privileging their pursuit above the lives of everyone else on that part of the ocean with them.
posted by indubitable at 10:50 AM on July 30, 2015


Not that the US Coast Guard rules apply where they were, but even that org says you can turn off AIS sometimes, so long as you document it and tell the port authorities when you arrive, presumably so they can fine or sanction you if it was unwarranted.

"Should continual operation of AIS compromise the safety or security of the vessel or where a security incident is imminent, the AIS may be switched off. This action and the reason for taking it must be reported to the nearest U.S. Captain of the Port or Vessel Traffic Center and recorded in the ship's logbook. The AIS should return to continuous operation as soon as the source of danger has been mitigated."
posted by zippy at 11:15 AM on July 30, 2015


"... a ship he could not see on radar ... We explained that the Sam Simon had turned off its locational transponder...."

indubitable: The transponder is a system that prevents collisions at sea.

[I have not RTA because Sea Shepherd annoy me]. Based on this snippet, though, it may be relevant to point out that an AIS transponder has nothing to do with whether or not a ship shows up on radar. The Sam Simon has a steel hull (as far as I can tell from photos anyway) and so should show up nicely if in radar range. It is taught at maritime colleges* that AIS information SHOULD NOT be solely relied upon for collision avoidance. The UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency says "Collision avoidance must be carried out in strict compliance with the COLREGs. There is no provision in the COLREGs for use of AIS information therefore decisions should be taken based primarily on visual and/or radar information."

*by everyone except the people running the one-week hi-tech NARAS/NAEST course, anyway.
posted by Lebannen at 11:41 AM on July 30, 2015


I'd join the US Navy in a second if it meant I was guaranteed to fight pirates. That's some good propaganda.
posted by gucci mane at 11:47 AM on July 30, 2015


*shrug* I guess not, then.
posted by indubitable at 12:20 PM on July 30, 2015


Even better than having navies do this is to have the ships be under UN command. If for example the Canadian navy catches a Spanish ship for illegal fishing then they may be accused of economic protectionism causing some kind of diplomatic incident. By putting the UN in charge it reduces the likelihood of such an accusation. It could also let countries with smaller navies get some useful practice.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:50 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Uh... Not to harsh y'all's buzz, but the only pirates in this story are the Sea Shepherd people. The poachers were poaching, which sucks but is a different thing; Sea Shepherd raided their boat and took their belongings, which is the definition of piracy.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:39 PM on July 30, 2015


raided their boat and took their belongings

Eye of the beholder. Sea Shepherd certainly harassed their boat, but made no attempt to board it until invited to do so for rescue purposes, so "raided" is a bit of a stretch.

I am also completely comfortable with reading Sea Shepherd's reeling in of nets cast illegally overboard as litter retrieval rather than the taking of belongings. Want to protect your stuff? Easily done: don't chuck it overboard where you have no legal right to do so.
posted by flabdablet at 11:41 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Anything that puts an end to an illegal trawler is perfectly fine in my books. Ocean fisheries are collapsing. It is past the time to take it seriously.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:02 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not to pile on, but I would also add that they turned over said belongings to the authorities to use as evidence, which strikes me as closer to law enforcement than piracy.
posted by mcrandello at 12:03 AM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sea Shepherd raided their boat and took their belongings, which is the definition of piracy.

It's also the definition of policing.
posted by zippy at 11:19 AM on August 4, 2015


« Older "like Piers Morgan in a lift"   |   Will the endgame pairing be Jo/Laurie, Jo/writing... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments