The fishing vessel Thunder, a vessel owned by Canela Shipping Ltd, has sunk today offshore Sao Tome in the Gulf of Guinea at position 0? 20′ N, 05? 23′ E.
The vessel had previously been identified by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) as one that has engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities that undermine the effectiveness of CCAMLR conservation measures and threaten toothfish stocks, marine habitats and by-catch species in the Southern Ocean.
The CCAMLR notes this vessel has been sighted or otherwise has been caught fishing in the Southern Ocean eighteen times since 2006.
It is probably safe to assume the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) and their crew aboard the Bob Barker and Sam Simon who witnessed the incident were delighted to watch the vessel go down. The entire crew of 40 were able to abandon ship via liferafts prior to the sinking, according to the SSCS.
Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, said, “When my Chief Engineer boarded the Thunder in the hours leading up to the sinking, he was able to confirm that there were clear signs that the vessel was intentionally scuttled. Usually when a vessel is sinking, the captain will close all hatches so as to maintain buoyancy. However, on the Thunder, the reverse was done – doors and hatches were tied open and the fishhold was opened. It is an incredibly suspicious situation, to say the least.”
The 40-person crew of the Thunder abandoned ship into liferafts and were subsequently picked up by the Sea Shepherd ships Bob Barker and Sam Simon. Sea Shepherd said that those rescued have been supplied with food and water, and will be received by the Sam Simon.
The Bob Barker and Sam Simon had been tailing the Thunder over the past four-months through the Southern, Indian and now Atlantic Oceans.
On Christmas day last year, Sam Simon commenced retrieval operations to remove the illegal fishing gear abandoned by the Thunder when it first fled from the Bob Barker. More than 72 kilometres of illegal gillnet was recovered over a three week period and over 1,400 fish, weighing a total of 45,000 kilograms, were returned to the ocean.
Poaching vessels such as the Thunder are a primary target of the SSCS’s 11th Southern Ocean Defence Campaign, Operation Icefish.