Pirate hunters are much cooler than pirates


sinkingthunder

The Thunder was a criminal ship that was plundering international waters.

Banned since 2006 from fishing in the Antarctic, the Thunder had been spotted there repeatedly in recent years, prompting Interpol to issue an all-points bulletin on it in December 2013. The vessel was described as the most egregious of the ships then on its Purple Notice list, collecting over $76 million from illicit sales in the past decade, more than any other ship, according to agency estimates. The Thunder’s prime catch was toothfish, more popularly called Chilean sea bass, known on docks as “white gold” because its fillets often sell for $30 a plate or more in upscale restaurants in the United States.

The Thunder’s status as a fugitive hardly slowed it down. By keeping its locational transponder turned off, it could fish and then slip in and out of ports undetected. The ship’s name and port registry, which have changed more than a half-dozen times, were not painted on its hull, the typical practice, but on a metal sign hung from its stern. (Sailors call such signs “James Bond license plates” because they can be easily swapped out.) In March, the Thunder was stripped of its registration by Nigeria and became officially stateless, which meant that marine authorities from any country could board and arrest its crew.

“Sea Shepherd is doing what no one else will,” said Peter Whish-Wilson, an Australian senator. “The urgency of this problem has grown,” he added, “but the government response, from all governments really, has fallen.”

So the Sea Shepherd organization tracked them down and chased them across several oceans. Read the whole dramatic story.

And now I want to be a pirate hunter when I grow up.

Comments

  1. inflection says

    While I deplore and denounce the actions of groups like PETA and most aggressive tactics in general regarding animal and environmental welfare, I have after extensive consideration decided that I am ethically comfortable with Sea Shepherd’s acts against whaling ships — and those of similar organizations, now that Sea Shepherd itself doesn’t.

    The larger whales, elephants, and possibly some of the more complex and social primates, strike me as intelligent enough that they deserve the same right to safety as humans, for the same ethical reason: that they have complex internal universes, that they can comprehend harm and death, and impending harm and death, to themselves and to individuals close to them, and that this causes them the kind of emotional anguish it does to us.

    I might think if we had the chance to compare MRI scans of these creatures and our Neanderthal cousins we would probably find a great deal of similarity.

  2. otrame says

    @inflection,

    While I agree that that killing whales, elephants and primates (not just the complex ones) or indeed, ANY animal that you do not intend to eat should not be allowed (except in very specific and limited circumstances), your final sentence falls into the Not Even Wrong category for several reasons. For one thing, Neanderthals had bigger brains per weight than we do. As for brain structure, we don’t know much about the structure of Neanderthal brains except where said brains were in contact with the skulls (though we are pretty sure they were almost exactly like ours), but leaving that aside, there are big differences between humans and other intelligent species.

  3. consciousness razor says

    inflection:

    The larger whales, elephants, and possibly some of the more complex and social primates, strike me as intelligent enough that they deserve the same right to safety as humans, for the same ethical reason: that they have complex internal universes, that they can comprehend harm and death, and impending harm and death, to themselves and to individuals close to them, and that this causes them the kind of emotional anguish it does to us.

    Well, I guess you’re getting close to the right place but you’re taking an awfully strange route.

    Humans don’t all have the same level of intelligence. You’d presumably agree that two year old children shouldn’t be harmed, even if they can’t “comprehend harm and death” as I can or if they’re not intelligent enough to have mental or social lives that are as “complex” as mine. A two year old can’t treat me very morally because they haven’t developed a very sophisticated understanding of that or how their relationships with others ought to work, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t act that way toward them. I should act that way toward them (i.e. I shouldn’t harm them) because they’re capable of being harmed, not because they’re capable of comprehending harm done to them in any specific way or because I have some guarantee that they’ll act that way toward me. If a two year old hits me and doesn’t really get why that’s wrong because they don’t have a complex mental or social life (yet), I shouldn’t hit them back, period.

    It makes no difference that they’re part of the same species or have some kind of potential (because they’re human) to eventually have some deep understanding what’s going on when they’re harmed (or not harmed) — the ethical reasons I have for my own actions are independent of all that. I shouldn’t treat them a certain way because they’re the same species and I have some kind of motivation to preserve human DNA (or to preserve DNA that makes “complex” animals) — the motivation ought to do with the consequences of the particular act itself: it’s helping/harming something that can simply have positive/negative feelings. It doesn’t need to be anything very complicated or intelligent or sociable to simply have a condition like that.

  4. Broken Things says

    That was an amazing story. It’s clear though that the efforts of groups like Sea Shepard will never be enough. Our countries’ mutual unwillingness to negotiate and fund an agreement where there are realistic and effective ways to prevent piracy does not augur well for the future. If we can put UN peace-keeping forces on the ground, what prevents us from doing the same with an international naval force? The expense of losing the world’s fishing stocks is going to be a lot greater and more destabilizing to the world than the cost of keeping pirates and criminally negligent shipping companies off the oceans.

  5. raefn says

    The Sea Shepherd organization has done some good things, but we should still reserve the right to criticize their errors. Their founder, Paul Watson, was kicked out of Greenpeace for being too radical. In his own words, from http://www.seashepherd.org/commentary-and-editorials/2008/10/30/the-beginning-of-the-end-for-life-as-we-know-it-on-planet-earth-340

    We need to radically and intelligently reduce human populations to fewer than one billion. We need to eliminate nationalism and tribalism and become Earthlings. And as Earthlings, we need to recognize that all the other species that live on this planet are also fellow citizens and also Earthlings. This is a planet of incredible diversity of life-forms; it is not a planet of one species as many of us believe.

    We need to remove and destroy all fences and barriers that bar wildlife from moving freely across the land. We need to lower populations of domestic housecats and dogs. Already the world’s housecats consume more fish than all the world’s seals and we have made the cow into the largest aquatic predator on the planet because more than one half of all fish taken from the sea is converted into meal for animal feed.

  6. Broken Things says

    @raefn
    None of that sounds particularly radical to me, in fact it just sounds like the truth. And what the Sea Shepard boats did was epic and brave in the face of what amounts criminal negligence on the parts of the companies and countries involved. This is not the time for cautious action. We and the planet are way beyond that.

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