Senegalese government authorities have arrested the Kunlun, a fishing vessel accused of toothfish illegally fishing, which was wanted by the international community.
As reported by the non-governmental organization Sea Shepherd, there are reports that the ship had falsified registration and was sailing under the flag of Indonesia.
This situation allowed the vessel to be detained in Senegal on formalities regarding its certification and flag status.
Out of the six known toothfish poaching vessels, which Sea Shepherd calls the “Bandit 6”, five are now out of action. Only one, the Viking, remains at large.
Sea Shepherd’s Flagship, Steve Irwin, will now continue to target the Viking as a part of its current Southern Ocean Defence Campaign, Operation Icefish 2015-16.
Captain of the Steve Irwin, Sid Chakravarty, said, “A continued strong commitment by state authorities across the world, heralded by the actions of Interpol’s Project Scale, has ensured that another toothfish poacher has been detained.
“International cooperation, spearheaded by two Southern Ocean campaigns by Sea Shepherd, has broken the back of the organized crime syndicates operating these vessels. Cooperation between entities is a must in the work to be done to tackle illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing,” he added.
The Kunlun has a long history of IUU fishing and is believed to have links to known Spanish crime syndicate, Vidal Armadores.
Sea Shepherd recalls that in January 2015, the vessel was one of three illegal fishing boats which brazenly fished in the presence of the New Zealand Navy after they were found using banned bottom gillnets in Australian waters, in the Southern Ocean.
The Kulun was again intercepted inside Australian waters, this time by the Sea Shepherd ship, Sam Simon, which at the time was under the command of Captain Chakravarty.
Last March, the vessel was detained in Phuket, Thailand, when it was intending to land a toothfish catch. However, given the limited application of Thailand’s national laws to international fisheries crimes, the vessel was subsequently reloaded with the illegal catch and was kept at anchor for five months. In September, the ship managed to evade Thai authorities and escaped.
Since that time, there have been concerns about the vessel offloading its catch and returning to Antarctica. However, with the detention in Senegal, it is confirmed that Kunlun, renamed Asian Warrior, did not return to the Southern Ocean after it was pursued by the Sam Simon last February.
“In previous years, illegal vessels would simply change their names and flags at will and use international loopholes and the lack of international cooperation to survive and remain in operation,” Captain Chakravarty pointed out.
“It is incredibly satisfying to know that the Kunlun, which was chased out of the Southern Ocean by my vessel in February, 2015, has been unable to resume its illegal fishing operations. The work done by Sea Shepherd completes, and at times fills the gaps in the work of governments, which are restricted by outdated legal conventions such as the UNCLOS,” he concluded.