A team of activists from the U.S.-based organization called Sea Shepherd Conservation Society departed for Libyan waters on two ships on Wednesday to prevent illegal catch of blue tuna fish in the region.
The area off the Libyan coast was closed to the exploitation of bluefin tuna by the International Commission on the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) and the European Union fishing commission, thethe marine wildlife conservation organization said.
“Our mission is simple. Any tuna fishing vessel we find off the Libyan coast will be operating illegally, we will cut their nets, free the fish, and document and report their operations to ICCAT and the European Union.” Captain Paul Watson, one of the commanders of the operation, said.
According to Sea Shepherd, bluefin tuna poachers are taking advantage of the war situation in Libya to catch this highly endangered fish. The volunteers aim to intercept those unlawful operating vessels even as the operation seems dangerous in a warzone.
“Every fishing boat in this area is a target for intervention and we have no need to worry about Libyan planes or naval vessels. We will keep NATO forces aware of our activities and we will report our operations to the appropriate European Union officials. We can’t allow the poachers to profit from the war by taking these magnificent endangered fish,” said another Captain MacLean.
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Last month ten Libyan-owned, French-flagged fishing vessels involved in tuna poaching were detained in France.
Tuna fishing has been protested widely by many wildlife conservation organizations in the past. Illegal as well as commercial catches of the Atlantic bluefin tuna and mismanagement of the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery is leading to the extinction of the species.
A large quantity of the tuna caught is exported to Japan for huge returns, which is giving rise to tuna poaching, the organization said.
“A single bluefin tuna can fetch $70,000 USD in the Japanese fish market. This provides a very strong motivation to break the laws,” Sea Shepherd France President Lamya Essemlali said, adding that they are up to interrupt poachers attempting to profit from the war in Libya.