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Two Humpback Whales Caught in Evil Fishing Net Off Gabon

Distressing footage of two humpback whales in fishing net prompts Gabonese minister to join patrol

whale stuck in nets of purse seiner
Whale stuck in nets of purse seiner. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.

As two humpback whales struggled to free themselves from a purse seine fishing net deployed by a European-owned fishing vessel, a Sea Shepherd drone hovered above.

Two Humpback Whales in Net

The drone captured distressing imagery, and for more than one hour, the humpback whales frantically fought to escape. Despite repeated requests for the vessel to open their net, to allow the whales to escape, they did not.

Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker deployed the drone. The Bob Barker has been patrolling the waters of Gabon for six years, in partnership with Gabonese authorities. The Gabonese authorities regularly board and inspect fishing vessels licensed to fish within Gabon’s sovereign waters to ensure compliance with their law.

Whale stuck in nets of purse seiner. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.

Operation Albacore

It was in 2015 that Operation Albacore began, a campaign to stop illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Gabon waters. At that time, fisheries observers were reporting purse seine fishing vessels that routinely used whales and whale sharks as living fish aggregation devices. The fishermen deliberately set their nets around marine megafauna with the expectation that they would ensnare the tuna that swim with them.

Gabon’s Minister of Fisheries Takes Action

Gabon’s Minister of Fisheries, the Honorable Biendi Maganga-Moussavou, banned that practice, requiring purse seine fishing vessels to immediately open their nets if whales or whale sharks are inadvertently trapped inside. The order applied even if it meant the loss of their tuna catch.

Peter and minister portrait. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.

Clearly, the European vessel did not comply with that law, even when reminded of it by Sea Shepherd crew.

“Even though the two endangered humpback whales were ultimately released, every minute of additional stress reduces the likelihood of survival post-release,” said Captain Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd’s Director of Campaigns.

Purse seine fishing is the practice of deploying a large wall of net around an entire school of fish, closing the net on the bottom and then drawing the net in, compacting the catch.

When Minister Maganga-Moussavou was shown the distressing footage, he committed to joining Gabonese fisheries inspectors, national park eco-guards, Navy sailors and Sea Shepherd crew on board the Bob Barker for several days of at-sea patrols.

Fisheries Minister of Gabon in cargo holds on purse seiner Montecelo during inspection. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.

Strong Message Sent

“I wanted to see the practices of the purse seine fishing fleet firsthand while also sending a strong message that illicit fishing activity will not be tolerated in the waters of Gabon. I travelled out to sea over 190 kilometers from Libreville-right up to our maritime border with neighboring São Tomé and Príncipe-to show that the government of the Gabonese Republic is vigilant in patrolling every square kilometer of its sovereign waters; and to convey that Operation Albacore has my full support as well as the complete backing of the Head of State, H.E. Ali Bongo Ondimba,” said Minister Maganga-Moussavou.

Minister Maganga-Moussavou sanctioned the vessel that refused to open its nets for the two humpback whales.

“The publication of this shocking footage, the sanctioning of the vessel and my own personal participation in the patrol will deter future illicit acts,” said Minister Maganga-Moussavou.

For more information about Operation Albacore: https://www.seashepherdglobal.org/our-campaigns/operation-albacore/

Fisheries inspector calls a boat with minister. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.
Peter and fisheries minister of Gabon. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.
Boarding purse seiner Montecelo with Minister. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.
Peter and Gabon fisheies minister handshake. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.
Inspection purse seiner Pont Saint Louis whale stuck in the nets. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.
Peter and fishing minister of gabon watching bycatch on computer. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.
Inspection purse seiner Pont Saint Louis with mako. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.
Fisheries Minister of Gabon on Bob’s bridge. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.
Peter and fisheries minister with inspector. Photo by Sea Shepherd Global.

Alan Gray is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of NewsBlaze Daily News and other online newspapers. He prefers to edit, rather than write, but sometimes an issue rears it’s head and makes him start hammering away on the keyboard.

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