The hunt for the last of six known toothfish poaching vessels has ended with the arrest of the Nigerian-flagged Viking in Indonesia.
The announcement of the vessel’s arrest was made at a press conference in Jakarta today, held by Indonesian Fisheries Minister, Susi Pudjiastuti, the Commander of the Western Naval Fleet and other high-ranking Indonesian officials.
Officials stated that the Viking has been detained for entering Indonesian waters without permission and for falsifying its name. The ship’s Captain, Huan Venesa
of Chile, and its crew of 10 from Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Myanmar and Peru, have also been detained.
The Viking has been the target of Sea Shepherd’s 12th Southern Ocean Defense Campaign, Operation Icefish 2015-16.
Last week, Sea Shepherd’s campaign leader, Captain Siddharth Chakravarty, notified officials in Indonesia of the suspected entry of the Viking into Indonesian waters. At today’s press conference, Minister Susi revealed that the Viking was located in the waters around the Riau Islands by the Indonesian Navy.
Indonesian officials again reiterated their strong stance against Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing, vowing to sink the Viking if the vessel is found to be in breach of international and national laws.
Captain Chakravarty said, “Indonesia has once again demonstrated a strong commitment to ensure that IUU fishing vessels and operators will not be welcome in its waters. Minister Susi has clearly stated that she intends to sink the Viking for crimes related to illegal fishing. Such swift government action is vital in ending the destructive streak of IUU vessels.”
The Viking is one of six toothfish poaching operators known to illegally fish vulnerable populations of Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean.
These six vessels, which Sea Shepherd named the “Bandit 6”, had been operating with impunity for more than 10 years, able to avoid detection and arrest by frequently changing name and registry; and by exploiting the remoteness of the Southern Ocean “shadowlands” where monitoring and surveillance is difficult.
In 2013, the Viking, then called Snake, was the first fishing vessel to be issued with an Interpol Purple Notice for fishing-related violations following a petition from authorities in Norway.
The owners and operators of the Viking are suspected of violating national laws and regulations, as well as international conventions by engaging in fraud and fisheries-related crime.
The Viking was last boarded by the Australian Customs Officers in September, 2015 on its way to Antarctica. With the return of the Viking to Indonesian waters and its subsequent arrest, all of the toothfish poaching vessels have been put out of action.
“The successful chase and the deliberate sinking of the Thunder, followed by the evidence hand-over and the trial in the case of her officers has firmly established Sea Shepherd’s reputation as being steadfast in their role to see the poachers through to the very end. This reputation has directly resulted in the return of the Viking back to shore, earlier than ever before. In a short span of 15 months, the entire fleet of the toothfish poachers is in disarray with no poachers fishing in Antarctica for the first time. International cooperation, spearheaded by Sea Shepherd’s at-sea campaigns, has directly resulted in one of the swiftest and biggest successes in marine conservation history.”