Sea Shepherd are currently facing the loss of their boat, The Steve Irwin, as ‘Fish and Fish’, one of Europe’s largest tuna fisheries, sue them for damages after the activist group freed 800 tuna from a pen in the Mediterranean.
The Steve Irwin is currently being detained off Scotland, and if Sea Shepherd fails to raise $1.4 milllion to post bond for the ship, they will lose possession of it. Like Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd use their ships to be witness in the oceans, but also in active attempts to defend sea life where they see it to be unjustly threatened. In the case of the tuna, Sea Shepherd believed it to have been illegally fished. It’s certain that they used divers to cut nets to release the tuna; as to what else occurred, that seems to be a war of words between Sea Shepherd and ‘Fish and Fish’, with ‘Fish and Fish’ even claiming that Sea Shepherd members attacked them and threw acid at their crew members. Sea Shepherd’s account of the events is very different. In a video launched to raise money for The Steve Irwin, captain Paul Watson says he is looking forward to being taken to court to present their video evidence of ‘Fish and Fish’s’ illegal activities. Having watched ‘Whale Wars’ once or twice, I should imagine Sea Shepherd have some well documented footage to back up their claims. I wonder if ‘Fish and Fish’ have considered that..
Meanwhile, The Steve Irwin is impounded, and stands to be sold off if Sea Shepherd cannot pay for it in 30 days. There seems to be something unjust about this. Surely, Sea Shepherd need to be taken to court and to loose the case before they can lose their ship? Having it impounded and then seized without a case going ahead first doesn’t seem just… But the other part of this story I found interesting was the idea of the damages that have been done to ‘Fish and Fish’. Presumably, some of the damages they are suing for are for the loss of tuna. So, when does the tuna become the possession of ‘Fish and Fish’ rather than a free species of the ocean? Clearly, by cutting the nets, Sea Shepherd have damaged private property, but do the fish within the nets now belong to ‘Fish and Fish’?
I suppose all of this is set out in fishing licensing laws, but the idea is still an odd one. Granted, it’s based around the human desire to possess, which allows society and the free market to operate, but how well does it apply to the sea? Until whales, dolphins, shark and fish and landed/moved into captivity/slaughtered, they are everyone’s to appreciate in the oceans, free to move across the world as they choose. Should putting a cage around tuna really mean they now belong to ‘Fish and Fish’? Sea Shepherd obviously don’t think so, and I’m inclined to agree. This may seem impractical rhetoric, but, maybe it’s worth consideration, especially when the seas are in the state they are in. The UK government recently received plenty of public opposition to the idea of selling off national woodlands – regions that have been (and thankfully, still are) owned by the public. Aren’t Sea Shepherd trying to send a very similar message?