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Environment 22 September 2017 24 3355

Sea Life Savers: Illegal fishing off Gabon challenged by Sea Shepherd

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Europe’s super-trawlers have fished their own waters clean. Now, they have appeared off the coast of Africa. One West African nation is ready to fight for its fish stocks. The government of Gabon has teamed up with a militant conservation group called Sea Shepherd, whose members are notorious for employing extreme tactics to thwart marine poaching.

One of the group’s nine ships, the Bob Barker, is now patrolling the country’s coast with Gabonese soldiers on board. Its crew is seeking, boarding, and inspecting suspicious looking ships that may be involved in illegal fishing.

Related: Fierce competition, tightening laws and piracy in the rich fishing grounds off Western Africa

It is estimated that up to 26 million tonnes of fish, including tuna, mackerel, and herring, are caught illegally off West Africa annually. This costs the countries along the coast billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Some East African countries have already been left completely bereft of fish. It can be argued that some Somali fisherman have turned to piracy as a result.   

The environmentalists are also concerned with the damage done to marine species inadvertently hauled into the trawlers. Every year, millions of tonnes of sharks, sea turtles, and unwanted fish are crushed to death in huge nets along with the target catch. They are then simply dumped over the side as trash.

Related: Saving seals

Some members of the Bob Barker’s vegan crew joined Sea Shepherd as a romantic adventure to sail the seven seas under the Jolly Roger in search of marine poachers. Others see their mission as a righteous quest to save the world… or at least the wetter part of it. 

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