Victory Over Illegal Fishing- Operation Driftnet a Resounding Success

Operation Driftnet, a campaign launched by Sea Shepherd Global in February, 2016, has successfully ended the operations of a fleet of 6 illegal fishing vessels.

In an email to Sea Shepherd Global Director Captain Alex Cornelissen, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture has communicated the results of their investigation. The Chinese government has temporarily suspended the fishing licenses of all of the vessels owned by the company, the Dong Xing Long Ocean Fishing Company. The six vessels of the Fu Yuan Yu fleet have been ordered to remain in port for an indefinite period. In addition, the captains of the fishing vessels have had their certification as Masters permanently revoked and each vessel has been fined the equivalent of $300,000 U.S. dollars.

The entire Fu Yuan Yu fleet has been shut down. 

Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd said, “This was a bold campaign led by a courageous Sea Shepherd captain and his crew.  This intervention has removed six very destructive poaching ships from the Indian Ocean and has sent a strong message to Chinese flagged ships around the Globe that China is serious about international fisheries law and enforcement.”

Sea Shepherd first intervened when Captain Sid Chakravarty and his crew on board the Steve Irwin discovered, documented, exposed and pursued an illegally operating Chinese drift fleet in the Indian Ocean.

Sea Shepherd reported the activities and supplied evidence to the Peoples Republic of China.  The pursuit which began in the Indian Ocean ended in Chinese waters with the Chinese Navy allowing the Steve Irwin to continue the pursuit through the South China Sea to the coast of China.

With the six ships in Chinese ports, the Chinese government took over the investigation. In response to Sea Shepherd’s initial discovery and documentation of the illegal use of driftnets (banned globally since 1992), the Chinese government ordered the six ships to return to Mainland China for investigation and inspection

Crew of The MV Steve Irwin haul in illegal driftnets which were provided to Chinese authorities as evidence.

Once in port, the government investigation found that the Fu Yuan Yu 071, Fu Yuan Yu 073 and Fu Yuan Yu 076 did indeed engage in illegal activities by using driftnets in the Indian Ocean. The investigation into the other three vessels of the fleet is ongoing.

Campaign leader, Captain Sid Chakravarty said, “These are severe penalties and the actions of the Chinese government clearly illustrate that they view fisheries crime very seriously. Sea Shepherd would like to thank the Chinese government for their cooperation with the investigation and we appreciate the recognition of the success by the government of China.”

Sea Shepherd has once again followed the template of coordinating international efforts to tackle international fisheries crimes and would like to credit the success of this campaign to the combined efforts of the Chinese government, INTERPOL, the crew of the Steve Irwin, Sea Shepherd Legal and Sea Shepherd Global.

Below is the email received from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture:

Dear Captain Alex Cornelissen,

First of all, on behalf of China fishery competent authority, I would like to express our sincerely appreciation for your and the Sea Shepherd Global's timely notification and constant attention regarding the case of illegal driftnet fishing by some Chinese fishing vessels in the southern Indian Ocean. We attached great importance to this case and immediately conducted a detailed and comprehensive investigation as soon as we received your email below.   I wish to take this opportunity to inform you the investigation outcomes the actions we have taken as follows.

We ordered the fishing vessels concerned to come back its home port immediately to accept investigation and conducted a port inspection and checked carefully all the related documents on board the fishing vessels, including  customs declaration, logbook, mate's receipt, cargo manifest, as well as all the information provided by your side, and talked face-to-face with some crew members of fishing vessels concerned,  we also polled the VMS track record from our platform and showed that these vessels did not  called at any other port during their return course to China. From all the evidence and information we collected we could finally draw the conclusion that three fishing vessels, namely Fu Yuan Yu 071,Fu Yuan Yu 073 and Fu Yuan Yu 076 did engage in such illegal fishing activities as driftnet fishing in the southern Indian Ocean, however, we didn't find any highly migratory species on board these fishing vessels.

According to Chinese Fisheries Law, we take the following punishment to these involved fishing vessels:

Firstly, temporarily suspend the fishing license for all the fishing vessels (not only the involved three fishing vessels) of the same company. Currently, the three fishing vessels are asked to stay in port for further rectification for an indefinite duration.

Secondly, permanently revoke the captain's certification of the three fishing vessels and imposed a penalty to each captain.

Thirdly, impose the maximum fine to each of the three fishing vessels, each equivalent to around 300 thousand US dollars.

We will also inform the results to relevant RFMOs if it is necessary.

I would like thank you for your assistance and cooperation on this case.

Best regards,

Liling ZHAO
Division of Deep sea Fishing,
Bureau of Fisheries,
Ministry of Agriculture, China.

Operation Driftnet Primary Goal Achieved

Commentary by Captain Siddharth Chakravarty

In early January, 2016, while the STEVE IRWIN was still berthed in Western Australia, a blog entry from SkyTruth, a group that tracks fishing activity using satellite AIS data, titled "Unusual Vessel Behavior in MH370 Search Area" caught my attention. At that point in time, the STEVE IRWIN was getting ready to leave for the Southern Ocean to tackle the last of the Bandit 6 Toothfish poaching vessels, the VIKING. The Malaysian Airlines crash site has an interesting connection to the toothfish poachers because in 2014, the day the plane was reported missing, a distress messages was received from a sinking vessel in Antarctica. We now know that the sinking vessel turned was the refrigerated cargo ship supporting 3 of the Bandit 6 vessels run by the Spanish Crime Syndicate, the Vidal family. Much like the plane, the mystery behind the sinking and the actual whereabouts of the vessel remains unknown. 

This SkyTruth blog entry has three very interesting aspects to it: 
1. Unknown vessels
2. Unusual activity on the oceans
3. A connection to Operation Icefish

And these three aspects intrigued me enough to make the decision to check these vessels out. On the 25th of January, 2016, the STEVE IRWIN had reached the location and was soon able to uncover that the vessels were fishing vessels and the unusual activity was the vessels fishing illegally using driftnets. We had just found one of the biggest cases of blatant illegality on the world's oceans- a fleet of 6 vessels laying hundreds of kilometers of driftnets in a part of the ocean where no enforcement exists. 

A large amount of small sharks and other pelagic fish were found dead in the illegal driftnets of the Fu Yuan Yu Fleet.

Driftnets were banned in 1992 by a United Nations Moratorium, solely because of the destruction they wreak upon the oceans. The crew of the STEVE IRWIN got a glimpse into the scale of this destruction when we confiscated 4 kilometers of the net and recovered the bodies of 321 animals across 12 different species. The mountain of dead bodies piled on the decks of the STEVE IRWIN represented the scale of the illegality. And in the absence of any enforcement, we knew that we had the responsibility and the ability to end this destruction. 

Steve Irwin crew haul in illegal driftnets during Operation Driftnet.

Sea Shepherd has a mission statement to tackle fisheries crimes on the High Seas. In areas of the oceans, outside any enforceable laws, combatting illegality remains a significant challenge and the role and aim of our ships is to fill this enforcement void and tackle the illegality at the scene of the crime. We also collect evidence of the crime and work with state-actors and land-based law enforcement agencies to ensure that the perpetrators of the illegality are brought to justice in courts across the world. 

Steve Irwin crew haul in illegal driftnets during Operation Driftnet.

Today, everyone on board the STEVE IRWIN is at peace and has smiles on their faces. The FU YUAN YU fleet has been disbanded and no driftnets remain deployed in the oceans by this fleet. 

In doing so, we have saved the lives of an estimated 100,000 sharks and an equal number of animals from other species. The primary aim of Operation Driftnet has been met- illegality on the oceans has been confronted and a "Rogue 6" have been shut down. The oceans, today, have 6 less vessels plundering them. 

Currently, the STEVE IRWIN is en route to Australia having covered over 20,000 kilometers since that day in January when we spotted the FU YUAN YU fleet of vessels. As a group of 30 people, committed to ending illegality on our oceans, our job is done. And to the people from across the world, committed to supporting the actions of Sea Shepherd, we thank you. The last 16 months of your support have shut down the Bandit 6 fleet of toothfish poachers and Rogue 6 fleet of drift-netters. 

Sea Shepherd Concludes Operation Driftnet

Final outcome of illegal Driftnet vessels rests with the Chinese Authorities. 

The 6 illegal fishing vessels of the Fu Yuan Yu fleet are now in China and the final investigation into their fisheries crimes is now in the hands of the Chinese authorities. Over the last 3 months, Sea Shepherd has provided the authorities with undeniable proof of this fleet’s engagement in illegal fishing with their operations violating 11 different International regulations and Chinese law.

Captain Siddharth Chakravarty with the illegal driftnets confiscated by Sea Shepherd during Operation Driftnet.

Sea Shepherd has offered to hand over the evidence in this case, comprising of 4 kilometres of driftnet, marking beacons, physical sightings, in addition to eye-witnesses, photographs and log-book entries, to the Chinese authorities. However, the offer has been turned down by the authorities who have instead decided to undertake a private investigation.

Campaign leader Siddharth Chakravarty said, “The evidence on board the Steve Irwin forms the most crucial part of the upcoming investigation. Given that the Chinese authorities are choosing to proceed without the evidence, I can only hope that the electronic submissions made to the authorities over the past 3 months have provided them with sufficient evidence to successfully conduct the investigation and find the perpetrators of these fisheries crimes guilty.”

Crew of the MV Steve Irwin haul in illegal driftnets confiscated as evidence during the campaign.

The presence of the fleet first appeared via a blog entry made by Skytruth, an organisation that maps fishing activity using satellite Automatic Identification System (AIS). The blog entry mentioned a fleet of vessels displaying unusual behaviour in the South Indian Ocean. The Steve Irwin acted on this information when it departed from Fremantle, Western Australia on the 18th of Janaury, 2016.

A week later, when the Steve Irwin intercepted the vessels, they turned out to be a fleet of 6 vessels fishing in the high seas of the South Indian Ocean. The “Rogue 6” vessels, registered to China, were determined to be using large-scale pelagic driftnets, a type of fishing gear banned by a United Nations moratorium in 1992. The crew of the Steve Irwin documented the activities of the vessels and confiscated a 4 kilometre section of their gear, in which the bodies of 321 animals were recorded. The catch comprised mainly of blue sharks but also numerous non-target species of smaller pelagic fish, critically endangered Bluefin tuna, dolphins and seals.

A common dolphin, found dead in one of the illegal driftnets.

Following the initial interaction with the fleet, Sea Shepherd began an intelligence gathering into the activities of the fleet. It was determined that the fleet of vessels was operating in the South Indian Ocean since September, 2015. Then in the middle of January, 2016 the fleet of Fu Yuan Yu vessels was met by a transhipping vessel, the Liao Chang Yu Yun 088, which transferred the illegal catch from the vessels before heading back to the port of Fuzhou, China.

After the first interception and evidence submission by Sea Shepherd, the AIS beacons of the vessels began to go dark from the 19th of February, 2016. However, one solitary beacon kept transmitting from the Fu Yuan Yu 076 which showed the fleet moving north before settling on the western edge of the Ninety East Ridge in the North Indian Ocean.

Fu Yuan Yu 071 with illegal driftnet fishing gear on board.

On the 13th of March, 2016, the Steve Irwin once again intercepted the fleet with the spotting of the Fu Yuan Yu 076. Over the next 19 days, the illegal fishing vessel was chased from the North Indian Ocean through the Malacca Straits and into the South China Sea until she finally entered a port in the Fujian province of China. During the chase, the Steve Irwin documented the spoliation of evidence by the fishing vessel with the ultimate intention to destroy all proof of her active involvement in the use of banned driftnets.
The crew of the Steve Irwin maintained a vigil for three days outside the port of Zhuhai, where the Fu Yuan Yu 076 was seen entering on the 30th of March, 2016. The vessel has been reported to the Chinese authorities and is within their jurisdiction for further legal action.

Operation Driftnet succeeded in putting an end to an operation that ticked all the boxes as a classic case of a fisheries crime. With the conclusion of this campaign, Sea Shepherd has once again filled an enforcement void in the high seas by shutting down a fleet of 6 ships that were knowingly exploiting international loopholes.

Captain Siddharth Chakravarty said, “The primary aim of Operation Driftnet was to tackle the illegality of the Rogue 6 vessels. This goal was achieved by the disbanding of the fleet alongside documenting their illegality, confiscating their gear and chasing the vessels back to China. The campaign highlights the huge disconnect between where a fisheries crime is committed and how it is tried in a court of law. Proactive enforcement on the oceans is a key to bridge this disconnect in order to secure the future health of our oceans.”

Thirty Years of Vigilance Against Destructive Driftnets

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson.

Sea Shepherd documented 321 dead marine creatures of 12 different species in just one net confiscated during Operation Driftnet.

In the years between 1987 and 1992, Sea Shepherd launched a number of campaigns to oppose and shut down high seas drift netting.
I took three ships into these confrontations, the DIVINE WIND, the SEA SHEPHERD II and the EDWARD ABBEY.
They were campaigns of intense confrontations. We rammed drift netters and confiscated and destroyed their nets, and with every campaign we focused more and more attention on this incredibly destructive industry.
The driftnets we found ranged from 10 to over 100 nautical miles in length, set in panels from the surface to about 15 meters in depth, buoys holding them up at the top and lead weights holding down the bottoms.
Massive weapons of devastating ecological destruction, and every day enough driftnet was being set to encircle the globe three times.

Aerial photograph depicting the scale of one of the illegal driftnets discovered by Sea Shepherd during Operation Driftnet.

In 1987 we challenged Taiwanese and Japanese drift netters in the North Pacific and the Bering Sea, covering ground all the way past Adak in the Aleutians and within sight of the coastline of the Soviet Union.
In 1990 we intervened against Taiwanese drift netters in the North Pacific. In 1991 we confronted them in the Caribbean, and in 1992 we challenged them a thousand miles due north of Hawaii.
Finally in December 1992, the U.N. implemented resolutions to ensure that a global moratorium on all large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing was fully implemented on the high seas of the world's oceans and seas, including enclosed seas and semi-enclosed seas, by 31 December 1992.
So for 24 years these insidious curtains of death and destruction have been illegal and during all these years we have not encountered any of these lethal monofilament nets anywhere in the ocean.

The Fu Yuan Yu 076, one of the six illegal driftnet poaching vessels during the 18-day pursuit of Operation Driftnet.

That is until recently in January when Captain Sid Chakravarty and his crew on the M/V Steve Irwin discovered a six-ship Chinese fleet setting these banned nets in the Indian Ocean.
Sea Shepherd began the campaign against driftnets nearly 30 years ago in 1987. We succeeded in taking a practise that was virtually unknown and focusing international media attention on it, and to do that we had to engage in aggressive campaigns to disable the fishing equipment by destroying power blocks and confiscating and destroying hundreds of miles of driftnet. 
We had no other alternative but to dramatize the situation through aggressive campaigns.
Things are different today. The world’s governments are more receptive to taking action against illegal high seas fishing in response to the gathering of evidence.


Crew of The MV Steve Irwin confiscating illegal driftnets.

Back in 1991 when we reported illegal activity to the authorities, there was no response and if there was it was to condemn Sea Shepherd for the interference.
Now governments are taking over-fishing and illegal fishing seriously.
Over the last 15 months Sea Shepherd was instrumental in shutting down the entire six-ship fleet of toothfish poachers and we did so with the full cooperation of Interpol and numerous state governments.
The situation we have now is that Sea Shepherd has caught a six-ship fleet flying the flag of the People’s Republic of China.
There was no aggressive action taken, just the deployment of video crews on small boats and the use of drones. As a result these ships were caught violating numerous international laws, and most importantly they were caught using driftnets that have been banned since 1992.

Sea Shepherd has reported the Fu Yuan Yu 076’s position to the Chinese government, providing authorities with an immediate opportunity to arrest and investigate the vessel.

Sea Shepherd believes that this evidence is all that is needed for the government of China to investigate these operations. Sea Shepherd has reason to believe that the Chinese government was unaware of the illegal activities of this fleet in the Indian Ocean. The reason for this is that Sea Shepherd has filmed evidence of the fishermen destroying their gear. They would not be doing this if they had nothing to hide from the Chinese government.
The Sea Shepherd ship MV STEVE IRWIN is now in the territorial waters of the People’s Republic of China. Contact has already been made with the Chinese Navy and the STEVE IRWIN has not been stopped in the pursuit of the poaching Vessel FU YUAN YU 076.

The MV Steve Irwin alongside one of the illegal driftnets discovered on Operation Driftnet.

Captain Sid Chakravarty intends to make the evidence he has gathered available to the Chinese authorities. It will be the decision of the government of China on how to proceed with an investigation. Sea Shepherd trusts that the Chinese government will uphold its obligations under international law and will act accordingly.
After all, China is not Japan.


Illegal Chinese Vessel Fu Yuan Yu 076 Inside Chinese Port Limits

On March 29, 2016 at 2027 UTC, the illegal fishing vessel Fu Yuan Yu 076 entered the port of Zhuhai in Guangdong Province in position 22 Degrees 02 Minutes (North); 113 Degrees 04 Minutes (East).

This is the second attempt made by the vessel in as many days to call a port after trying to enter Xincun Harbour yesterday, and the first instance in which the vessel is well inside of China's jurisdictional control.

Sea Shepherd’s Flagship, Steve Irwin, which is in pursuit of the poaching vessel, has reported the Fu Yuan Yu 076’s position to the Chinese government, providing authorities with an immediate opportunity to arrest and investigate the vessel.

The Fu Yuan Yu 076 has been documented actively engaged in the destruction of evidence with relation to its illegal fishing gear, in blatant violation of Chinese law.

Operation Driftnet Campaign Leader and Captain of the Steve Irwin, Siddharth Chakravarty, said, "The Chinese authorities made a strong commitment to combat illegal fishing by recalling the six Chinese registered Fu Yuan Yu vessels after Sea Shepherd submitted an initial report on their illegal activities in January, 2016. It is now time for the Bureau of Fisheries of the People's Republic of China to crack down on the errant vessels and punish the offenders. The vessels are registered in China, are within Chinese waters and China has complete authority over them. With all the evidence submitted to the authorities, I am confident that the vessel will be found guilty as charged."

321 dead animals comprising of 12 different species were retrieved from one of the illegal driftnets of the Fu Yuan Yu fleet. 

The Bureau of Fisheries had previously ordered the entire Fu Yuan Yu fleet to return to its homeport of Fu Zhou to face an investigation. However, the Fu Yuan Yu 076 has defied the orders of the Chinese government by pulling into a more southern port, instead of heading directly to Fu Zhou.

Now out of visual range of the Steve Irwin, it is likely that the Fu Yuan Yu 076 will offload its illegal catch of shark fins and critically endangered Southern Bluefin tuna. 

25 critically endangered Southern Bluefin tuna were found dead in one of the illegal driftnets of the Fu Yuan Yu fleet.

The Steve Irwin intercepted the Fu Yuan Yu 076 on March 13, 2016 on the Ninety East Ridge on the high seas of the Indian Ocean. For the last 18 days the Sea Shepherd ship has been in pursuit of the poaching vessel. During this pursuit, the Fu Yuan Yu 076 has been documented actively engaged in the destruction of evidence with relation to its fishing gear, in blatant violation of Chinese law. 

Over the last week the Fu Yuan Yu 076 has shown signs of trying to shake the tailing Steve Irwin by manoeuvring aggressively, requesting for an intervention from the Chinese Navy, as well as using the cover of darkness to evade the Sea Shepherd ship.

Sea Shepherd has reported the Fu Yuan Yu 076’s position to the Chinese government, providing authorities with an immediate opportunity to arrest and investigate the vessel.

Sea Shepherd has learnt that the company running the Fu Yuan Yu fleet is the Dongxinglong Ocean Fishing Company LTD, based in Fu Zhou, Fujian Province, China. The company has multiple vessels operating in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans, mainly targeting tuna. 

Captain Chakrvarty added, “The Fu Yuan Yu 076 is owned by a large fishing company, and with the vessel now calling the port of Zhuhai it is clear that the poacher is receiving logistical support from the owners. This is now not just a case of a crime committed on the high seas, but multiple crimes being committed inside of China to hide the facts that prove the vessel’s illegality.”

The Steve Irwin is currently located outside the port limits, monitoring the movements of theFu Yuan Yu 076 on radar. Should the vessel try and run for open waters, the Steve Irwin will once again resume the pursuit of the vessel.

From the High Seas and Into Coastal Waters

Day 17 of the chase of the illegal fishing vessel Fu Yuan Yu 076 begins with the sun rising over the green, shallow banks of the South China Sea to the East, and the rugged mountainous coast of mainland China to the West. The Steve Irwin darts in and around coastal fishing vessels as the Fu Yuan Yu 076 flees north at top speed in another attempt to lose her tailing vessel. 

The Fu Yuan Yu 076 pulls into Xincun Harbour.

Last night the Fu Yuan Yu 076 made its most audacious attempt to shake the tailing Steve Irwin. At dusk, the Fu Yuan Yu 076 went into the port waters of Xincun Harbour, the southernmost port of China. As it got darker, the ship switched off all its lights causing the Steve Irwin to lose visual contact amidst the back-scatter from the city's lights. The ship then made some very strange maneuvers in and around vessels at anchor, seemingly attempting to cause confusion on the radar as well. Following that, it turned around and sped out of the port amidst a rocky coastline and blindingly-lit stern trawlers in a further attempt to confuse and escape the tailing Sea Shepherd vessel.

Steve Irwin crew members Damien and Nick keep a close eye on the Fu Yuan Yu 076's movements.

However, the Steve Irwin has a very accomplished set of watch-keepers who are honed in the skills of tailing and pursuing fleeing vessels. The plan has failed. The Steve Irwin remains on the stern of the Fu Yuan Yu 076 with only one goal in mind: to see the illegal vessel delivered to the doors of justice in the port of Fu Zhou.

The Fu Yuan Yu 076 flees to open water, under the spotlight of the pursuing Steve Irwin.



The constant presence of the Steve Irwin on the stern of the Fu Yuan Yu 076 is clearly taking its toll on the crew of the illegal vessel. 

On the 13th day of the Steve's pursuit, the Fu Yuan Yu 076 once again began some suspicious modifications to their vessel in order to destroy evidence of their illegal fishing gear. As the Steve Irwin moved closer to document this activity, the Fu Yuan Yu 076 veered recklessly across the bow of the Steve in an attempt to hamper the documentation process. The Steve Irwin stood her ground, with Captain Sid maintaining his course and speed while radioing the Captain of the Fu Yuan Yu 076 to advise them that any collision would be their responsibility. The pass resulted in a near collision, with the Fu Yuan Yu 076 passing a mere 10 meters in front of the Steve Irwin.

Seeing their attempt to intimidate having failed, the Fu Yuan Yu 076 has resumed her course towards China, with the Steve Irwin in pursuit.

We intend to deliver this ship to waiting authorities in order to face justice for her fisheries crimes.


On March 23 2016, whilst in pursuit of the illegal driftnet vessel, the Fu Yuan Yu 076, The MV Steve Irwin was approached by two warships of the Chinese Navy.

The vessels questioned the Steve Irwin as to why it was in Chinese waters chasing a Chinese vessel. Captain Siddharth Chakravarty responded, outlining the illegal history of the Fu Yuan Yu fleet and announcing his intention to continue his pursuit of the Fu Yuan Yu 076.

Upon receiving the information, the warships have left the Steve Irwin, allowing the mission to continue.

The Steve Irwin now remains in pursuit of the Fu Yuan Yu 076, and continues to relay information about the ship’s movements and operations to relevant authorities, as the vessels inch closer to China.


The fishing vessel Fu Yuan Yu 076, one of six vessels documented fishing illegally in the Indian Ocean by Sea Shepherd, has crossed over to South China Sea from the high seas of the Indian Ocean, through the Malacca Straits. The vessel entered the Chinese Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on March 22, 2016 at 0836 UTC, Southwest of Nansha Qundao (Spratly Island) bordering the Indonesian EEZ.

The Fu Yuan Yu 076 has switched off its Automatic Identification System (AIS). Sea Shepherd’s Flagship, The MV Steve Irwin, remains on the tail of the illegal vessel ensuring that its location is relayed to the relevant authorities across the world, including authorities in China.

In these photos, Sea Shepherd documents the vessel destroying evidence of its illegal fishing activity.

Below: A comparative photo between the FU YUAN YU 071 and the FU YUAN YU 076 that indicates the vessel is attempting to hide its identity by taping down the Chinese flag and removing the identification name boards. 

Below: A comparative photo between the FU YUAN YU 071 and the FU YUAN YU 076 that shows the absence of the net-hauling winch and the net-transfer chute in an attempt to tamper with the evidence of her illegal fishing operations.

The fishing vessel Fu Yuan Yu 076, one of six vessels documented fishing illegally in the Indian Ocean by Sea Shepherd, has crossed over to South China Sea from the high seas of the Indian Ocean, through the Malacca Straits. The vessel entered the Chinese Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on March 22, 2016 at 0836 UTC, Southwest of Nansha Qundao (Spratly Island) bordering the Indonesian EEZ.

The Fu Yuan Yu 076 has switched off its Automatic Identification System (AIS). Sea Shepherd’s Flagship, The MV Steve Irwin, remains on the tail of the illegal vessel ensuring that its location is relayed to the relevant authorities across the world, including authorities in China.

In the below, Sea Shepherd documents the vessel destroying evidence of its illegal fishing activity.

The FU YUAN YU 076 leaves a trail of fishing sacks used to store its catch in its wake. The crew of the Steve Irwin retrieve fishing sacks, to hand-over as evidence to authorities.

Read more:


A day after locating the Fu Yuan Yu 73, the Delta - one of the Steve Irwin's small boats - was sent to further document their illegal fishing activities. Upon seeing the Delta, the vessel fled, abandoning its driftnet in the ocean. The Delta pursued the ship as the Steve Irwin headed towards the driftnet in order to retrieve and confiscate it.

The Delta approaches the Steve Irwin and the illegal driftnet.

Having followed the Fu Yuan Yu 73 for over an hour, the Delta returned to the Steve Irwin, with its crew busy hauling in the net. The driftnet was a mess, having become entangled with the swells of the ocean, and within its grasp were the bodies of several Blue sharks. Delta navigator Sam Docker recalls his impressions upon returning to the Steve Irwin.

"As we started to untangle the net we discovered that one of the entangled Blue Sharks was still alive, so we focused our attention to cutting it free from the net." 


The entangled Blue Shark.


As the shark thrashed around in the net, Eliza and Sam directed the boat closer to the shark.  

"This was the first time I'd ever seen a shark and it was horrible to see one in such a panicked situation. The small boat was moving wildly up and down and every time we cut the net, the shark would tangle itself up again. We ended up cutting the tail free first and while Sam held it, I untangled the last of the net from its teeth." remembers Eliza.

Sam holds the tail of the Blue Shark as Eliza works to cut the net and free the animal.

After a short time, Eliza and Sam were able to cut the Blue shark free from the driftnet, with the crew of the Steve Irwin cheering them on.

"When I first saw the shark tangled up I didn't think we were going to be able to save it. When it finally whipped its tail and swam off it felt like we had just achieved something impossible." - Eliza.

The Blue Shark swims away, free, as Eliza and Sam watch on.

"It felt good to be able to free an animal at the start of the hauling, but at the same time it was hard to see the destructiveness of this net up so close. At that point I think we all knew it would be a difficult few days ahead." - Sam.

By the end of the next day, the Steve Irwin had retrieved the bodies of 108 Blue sharks and were able to save the lives of 18. The Fu Yuan Yu fleet were not permitted to catch any species of shark under Indian Ocean regulations, and the use of driftnets has been banned worldwide since 1992.


For the second time since January, the Steve Irwin, has intercepted a fleet of six illegal fishing vessels, the Fu Yuan Yu fleet, in the Indian Ocean.

Under the command of Captain Siddharth Chakravarty, the Sea Shepherd ship has now engaged in a pursuit of one of the ships, the Fu Yuan YU 076.

Read the full story:


A Common Dolphin entangled in a section of illegal driftnet discovered by the Steve Irwin.

On January 26, having spent the previous six hours pulling in approximately 4.5 kilometers of abandoned driftnet, the crew of the Steve Irwin noticed the body of a Common dolphin emerge from the water, entangled in the net. As one of the Steve's small boats approached the dolphin, the crew aboard were able to confirm that the dolphin was dead. The net continued to be brought aboard, and with it came the Common dolphin. Crew member Erica McLernon remembers the moment.

Bernd, Brian, and Erica bring the Dolphin aboard, cutting the net to release its body.

"It had been an exhausting day, and we had already brought the bodies of so many animals aboard the Steve Irwin. Sharks, Southern Bluefin tuna, fish, seals and even a Swordfish - and then we all saw the dolphin in the net. It was pretty hard to see that, and everyone wanted to do their best to help it, but unfortunately it was already dead. So we brought it onto the Steve and there was definitely a collective sense of sadness amongst the crew. I think it really brought home to us just how destructive and indiscriminate these driftnets are. None of us were really expecting to see this."

Erica holds the dead Common Dolphin aboard the Steve Irwin.

By the end of the day, the tally of dead animals within the short section of net had reached a staggering 321, with the crew able to release 20 animals back, alive. 

This is the first in a series of moments that we will be sharing with you from the Steve Irwin crew over the coming days as they continue their mission to end illegal driftnetting in the Indian Ocean.


In January 2016, Sea Shepherd's Flagship the Steve Irwin found an illegal driftnet operation in the Indian Ocean. When confronted, the poachers abandoned a section of their net, which was then hauled in by the Steve Irwin and its crew from the ocean with the bodies of 321 animals entangled in it.
Today, Sea Shepherd Global launches Operation Driftnet with the aim to shut down this illegal operation. 

Sea Shepherd expects to engage with the fleet of illegal vessels in the coming days. 
Read the full story: