After reaching the Banzare bank in the Arctic Ocean, captain Peter Hammarstedt and the crew of his environmental campaigning ship "Bob Barker" embarked on a chase unlike any seen before.
By way of frequent flag changes, hidden ownership, false papers and helped along by antiquated regulations for stopping crime at sea, the trawler "Thunder" was able to continue its illegal fishing activity in ocean areas around Antarctica for more than 10 years making as much as £5 million a year. In 2013, Interpol put out a notice for the ship internationally, but still it took the environmental organisation Sea Shepherd to finally pin down the poachers in a desolate ocean area around Antarctica. For four consecutive months, "Bob Barker" followed in the wake of the notorious poaching trawler "Thunder".
The hunt for "Thunder" has now been reported all over the world but the authors were the first to tell the story in a series of articles in the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv. They followed the trail to the criminal kingpins in Spain, uncovered comprehensive fraud surrounding the ship’s papers and exposed how the vessel was used for rampant criminal activity at sea. Everything happened under the radar of both authorities, insurance companies and ultimately customers, who end up paying dearly for the illegal catch in restaurants.
"Thunder’s" story isn’t unique. In the Antarctic Ocean, the Atlantic, the Indian Ocean as well as the Pacific, tonnes of fish are caught illegally every day. The oceans are being depleted and developing countries are robbed of essential resources. Conditions aboard many of the vessels are inhumane for crewmembers, who are often recruited out of poor Asian and African countries. Earnings from the illegal fishing trade have been estimated upwards of £16 billion globally and end up lining the pockets of mafia-like organisations.
Illegal fishing is a crime without borders. This is the story of big money and powerful international crime syndicates.
Born in Norway, Eskil Engdal has worked as a feature journalist at the Norwegian broadsheet Dagens Næringsliv for more than 20 years. Born in Norway, Kjetil Sæter has worked as a journalist for the broadsheets Aftenposten, Finansavisen and Dagens Næringsliv, and still works as a feature journalist for the latter.
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