Video credit: Sea Shepherd (2:06)
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s arrival in Libyan waters was not met with a friendly welcome on the weekend. While initially just requesting to speak with inspectors on the large fishing boats, the crew soon had to fight off attacks from the fisherman.
“Sea Shepherd’s Operation Blue Rage 2011 has certainly enraged Tunisian fishermen operating on Melita Bank, roughly 70 nautical miles off the Libyan coast and 20 miles inside the NATO no fly zone,” Sea Shepherd writes.
At 0600 hours, the Sea Shepherd vessels Steve Irwin and Brigitte Bardotapproached a number of Tunisian-registered tuna seiners to inspect their operations.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is searching only for illegal fishing operations.
“We are not here to protest legal fishing, we’re here to stop illegal fishing so any legal operation has no cause to be concerned about our presence in these waters,” said Captain Paul Watson.
It quickly became apparent that the seven vessels and two floating tuna cages were suspicious. The attitude of the fishermen was clearly hostile and they refused to answer if they had an ICCAT (International Commission on the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna) inspector onboard. They refused to allow an inspection of the cages.
What followed was:
- fishing vessels radioing the French Navy and claiming that the Sea Shepherd activists were attacking them and cutting their nets (“absolutely not true”);
- the Tunisian seiner Tapus crew throwing stones and steel chain links at the Sea Shepherd crew on the Steve Irwin;
- the Sea Shepherd crew firing bottles of rotten butter back;
- fishermen from small boats throwing chunks of metal at Sea Shepherd crew members in the Sea Shepherd Delta inflatable who were trying to inspect the tuna cage;
- a French naval jet being called by the fisherman;
- one more seiner joining the other 7 in the waters there.
The Sea Shepherd crew, while not having much to work with so far, are not intending to back off from their mission for a second.
Sea Shepherd is remaining with these vessels until an ICCAT inspector can found to communicate with. The regulations require these vessels to have an ICCAT inspector onboard. We have not had any response to our request to speak with an ICCAT inspector to determine the legality of this operation.
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