Sea Shepherd’s patrol-boat Ocean Warrior had spent two weeks hunting for the Hong Long Fisheries / Pingtan Marine Enterprises fleet, and informed the police once it had been located.
The vessels were anchored off the coast of Com in East Timor when the dawn raid took place on 9 September. The fleet was licensed for general fishing but was suspected of abusing the terms of the licence once out of sight.
East Timor National Police (PNTL) requested the help of Ocean Warrior and a Sea Shepherd speedboat to help take armed officers out to board and secure the vessels, and used drones to document the operation.
Sea Shepherd crew helped to document the catch in the holds, and reported that their findings confirmed suspicions that the vessels were targeting sharks, using anchored gill nets. The catch appeared to be 95% sharks.
The same fleet had been spotted in East Timor in February offloading sharks onto the refrigerated cargo vessel Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999, says Sea Shepherd.
No action was taken at the time, but in August the Chinese vessel was detained in the Galapagos marine reserve, as reported on Divernet.
It was found to contain 300 tons of sharks said to have been offloaded from Hong Long Fisheries and Pingtan Marine Enterprises vessels. The crew were jailed in Ecuador and the ship impounded.
Ocean Warrior is currently monitoring the anchored fleet, as Sea Shepherd fears that “high-level deals being struck to release them by corrupt officials” could allow the vessels to escape.
“Sadly the good work of the PNTL and Sea Shepherd will be in vain and these poachers will dodge justice once more,” says the organisation’s Asia Director Gary Stokes, who took part in the raid.