A pair of wild chases in the iceberg-strewn waters off Antarctica led to the shutdown of the world's biggest pirate fishery.
I was doing a leisurely feature on Sea Shepherd's Operation Icefish when suddenly it took a spectacular turn, and so I had to rush to file. Voila the result.Operation Icefish when suddenly it took a spectacular turn, and so I had to rush to file. Voila the result.
Follow-up: It took seven hours for the Sam Simon to reach Sao Tome. The vessel was met on shore by an agent who said he’d received a call from Spain to arrange for the departure of the crew of the Thunder. But the Sao Tome coast guard had other ideas: they detained the entire crew. As of April 11, the crew and officers of the Thunder were still detained in Sao Tome. An Interpol team was expected to arrive on April 12, and a major focus of their investigation will be to determine who exactly owns the ship, and who told its captain to scuttle it.
The Sam Simon left immediately and is headed to Europe. The Bob Barker is headed for Ghana, where evidence collected by two of its crew members who boarded the sinking Thunder, including the ship computer, will be turned over to the Interpol office there.
The ship was a top-of-the-line trawler built in Norway in 1969 named Vesturvon. The Bob Barker crew noted that she was in pristine condition, testimony to the profitability of the illegal toothfish fishery. It uses banned bottom gillnets that catch toothfish much faster than the legal longlines – but also kill everything else, hence its ban.
The Kunlun is still detained in Phuket and the Viking is also detailed in a port in Malaysia. The whereabouts of the other three “Bandit Six” ships, involved in illegally fishing toothfish for the past decade, are not known.
Back in 2008, I wrote a cover story for Smithsonian magazine on the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, then the biggest in the world. The editors headlined it “Victory at Sea,” which was a bit premature given that PIPA had only banned fishing in 3% of the reserve. Today, many stories later, I have the huge pleasure to report the real Victory at Sea: since January 1, not only has fishing been banned in the whole thing, but satellite data shows that the international fishing fleets have complied and the reserve is now actually empty, allowing ecological healing following a half-century of overfishing to start.
The Obama administration is compiling a surprisingly mediocre record on ocean conservation.
In this piece, I try to assess what effect a really cool new technology will have on poaching. Though it promises to allow everyone to watch illegal fishing anywhere on their computer (poach-porn?), the answer, sadly, is probably not much.
If you find the piece boring, dive down to comments section and see how long (or short) it takes for perfect strangers to hurl vitriol at each other. Or perhaps you shouldn’t. “I hope you dear young people will never realize how very wicked the world is,” Miss Marple said.
Here is the third and last story on the Obama marine monuments expansion, showing it's not what it was portrayed to be
Today, September 25, John Kerry is going to announce President Obama's intention not to create the world's biggest marine reserve. So why is the press reporting that the president is creating the world's biggest marine reserve?
Read about it here.
In a nutshell, Obama, like Bush in the closing days of his administration, had proposed to turn the entire Exclusive Economic Zones of five remote Pacific atolls into marine national monuments. Bush had encountered resistance from the Navy and ended up declring only the middle 11% of the zones. Today, Obama, who I'm told had opposition from the powerful Hawaii fishing lobby but not the Navy, will close the entire EEZ of the three least-fished islands. They range in size from 440,000 km2 to 316,000 km2, and are separated by more than 1000 km of water. Among the two others is Howland and Baker, which happens to share a 218-km border with the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Kiribati's President Anote tong has promised to close it to all fishing at the end of the year. If Obama had closed Howland and Baker too, the 8-shaped two reserves would have totaled 840,000 km, making them -- it -- the biggest marine reserve in the world. ut he didn't, and the title still belongs to Britain's Chagos Islands in the Indian ocean, which cover 640,000 of fish-rich tropical waters.
Here's an old piece I did for Science that helps understand why remote Pacific islands like Palmyra are worth preserving. Six years after President Bush ended all fishing in the waters 50 nautical miles off Palmyra (and four others), President Obama has proposed extending the protection all the way out to 200 miles, thus including the islands' entire Exclusive Economic Zone. This would keep would-be poachers further away from the reefs and allow all manner of
For the record, here’s a summary of my findings on Kiribati’s purchase of land in Fiji, which are that Kiribati paid more than three times the price per acre that purchasers of neighboring, similar (but smaller) properties paid in the past three years.
Because the deeds attached record three different currencies, I reduced them all to pounds sterling at the rate of exchange of the time they were purchased.
The Naiviriviri property of 857 acres sold on April 29, 2011, for NZD 648,000, or GPB 309,031, or 361 pounds per acre.
The Nayavu 1 property of 401 acres sold on Jul 18, 2012, for FJD 401,000, or GBP 140,029, or 349 pounds per acre.
The Nayavu 2 property of 528 acres sold on Oct 17, 2012 for FJD 200,000 or GBP 68,720 or 130 pounds per acre.
The average of these three properties is 361 + 349 + 130 = 840: 3 = 280 pounds per acre.
In contrast, the Natoavatu Estate sold on May 30 2014 for AUD 9.3 m or GBP 5.1 million or 937 pounds per acre, more than three times the price per acre, even though the Natoavatu estate is much larger and should therefore have a discount per acre.
The property is more than half made up of thick jungle on steep hills unfit for agriculture or habitation, and could support a few more hundred people at most, according to the villages and to one expert. For I-Kiribatis to grow food there for export to Tarawa would require providing them with housing and training and would cost far more than simply to purchase the produce in markets in Suva and ship it to Tarawa, as is already being done.
There are 270 Solomon Islanders living in Naviavia, a village at the center of the estate. Naviavia is located on the east-west road that crosses the estate, which is oriented mostly north-south, through the middle. The government said in announcing the sale that all Solomon Islanders had left the property. This is misleading but technically correct. Archbishop Winston Halapua, who heads the Anglican Church’s Polynesian Diocese, the seller of the property, told me the 310 acres in which Naviavia sits have been carved out of the estate, kept by the Church’s Polynesian Diocese, and leased to the Solomon islanders for 99 years at no cost. Any development of the property would require the cooperation of the Solomon Islanders, who are unhappy that the Church, to maximize the sale price, sold to Kiribati 400 acres that they used for grazing and farming.
The government of Fiji supported the sale but declined to comment to me on whether it was aware of the extraordinarily high price paid by Kiribati, one of the poorest countries in the world with a GDP per capita that is less than half that of Fiji.
For more details on the land purchase, see my article in the June issue of the Fiji magazine Republika. Click on this symbol > on the opening page to get to the article, which opens with a picture of Naviavia.