Driftnets are defined as nets whose purpose is to enmesh, entrap or entangle fish by drifting on the surface of the ocean. In the last century, fishing vessels deployed large-scale driftnets across the world, but it quickly became evident that these nets kill all wildlife that come into contact with them. As a result of this, in 1992, the United Nations (UN) banned the use of driftnets on the high seas.

A Blue shark entangled in the abandoned driftnet.


In January, 2016 while patrolling the South Indian Ocean for illegal fishing activity, the Steve Irwin came across numerous targets on its radar. The small boats were dispatched and they identified these targets as a fleet of Chinese fishing vessels. The fleet comprises of the Fu Yuan Yu 70, 71, 72, 7375 and 76.

Over the course of 3 days, the activities of these vessels were documented and Sea Shepherd determined that these ships are fishing with large-scale driftnets.

The Fu Yuan Yu 71, one of the illegal drift netting ships.


The fishing violations of the Fu Yuan Yu fleet are in breach of 10 different laws related to United Nations (UN) agreements, Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RMFO) rules and flag State responsibilities.