Sunday morning, the Steve Irwin spotted five French vessels leaving Malta at high speed, bound for Libyan waters. One of the vessels, the Sainte Sophie Francois 2, does not have a bluefin tuna quota for the 2011 season and is not allowed to take part in any such fishing operation.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) confirms that Sainte Sophie Francois 2 recently departed from Malta and has no legal right to be carrying nets this year.
Approximately one hour after leaving Malta, the four purse seiners with a quota turned off their Automatic Identification System (AIS) even though this prohibited and they disappeared off the radar.
The Steve Irwin dispatched its helicopter to fly over the area and spotted the Sainte Sophie Francois 2. No sooner did the helicopter fly over, the vessel turned off its AIS, changed course and started to head towards Tunisian waters.
The other four vessels were the Jean Marie Christian 6, Jean Marie Christian 7, Sainte Sophie 3 and Cisberlande 5. All have been allocated bluefin tuna quotas this year but their whereabouts are unknown at this point.
The Brigitte Bardot is deep inside Libyan waters searching for poaching operations.
Captain Lockhart Maclean reports that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is in contact with NATO forces regarding our movements and reporting to both ICCAT and the European Union Fishing Commission.
The Sea Shepherd ships are patrolling the waters off the coast of Libya searching for tuna poachers taking advantage of the war in Libya to illegally catch endangered bluefin tuna. All tuna fishing in these waters is prohibited under ICCAT and European fishing regulations.