Prison and fines of $17million for the Master and Deck officers of the MFV Thunder
On Monday (12th of October 2015) the Skipper and two Deck Officers were sentenced in relation to a range of offences that they were convicted of as the crew of the MFV Thunder.
Those charges included Pollution, reckless driving, forgery and negligence.
They were handed down 32 month prison sentences each and substantial fines.
It came after a 10,000 nautical mile chase over a 98 day chase of the vessel by the Environmentalist group ‘Sea Shepherd’ on board the vessel the Bob Barker. On the morning of the 6th of April 2015, the Bob Baker received a distress call from the MFV Thunder and shortly after the MFV Thunder sank.
The vessel was Nigerian registered allegedly owned by a Nigerian Company. It transpired after that the Nigerian Company did not exist. The investigations are now focusing on European connections.
After the vessel rose to prominence during the hunt by the Bob Barker, the Nigerian Government revoked the vessels registration in March of 2015. This meant that any Maritime Authority had the right to board and arrest the vessel.
The Sea Shepherd did not have that authority and engaged in activities which were illegal in their own right such as cutting gear, taking buoys and hauling nets belong to the MFV Thunder.
The MFV Thunder was operating in the Antarctic waters most of the time targeting the Patagonian or Antarctic Toothfish which is known as ‘White Gold’ which retails as Chilean Sea Bass in high end restaurants. Each landing was worth in the order of $3 to $6 million.
By tracking the vessel, the Sea Shepherd prevented the MFV Thunder from engaging in fishing activities and indeed entering Ports to land her catch.
Shortly into the hunt of the vessel, the Sea Shepherd hauled a set of gear that the MFV Thunder had shot. What they recovered was 72 kilometres of nets (bottom sea gillnets) and over 50,000 Kilos of Toothfish and nearly 3 times this again in by catch.
After the MFV Thunder issued its mayday, the 40 man crew of the MFV Thunder were transferred to the Sea Shepherd’s vessel. Several crew members of the Bob Baker went to the MFV Thunder to gather evidence including frozen Toothfish which had been gutted.
The crew of the MFV Thunder were taken to the African Island of Sao Tome and Principe where they were prosecuted. The Crew were of Indonesian, Spanish and Chilean origin. The Skipper himself was Chilean.
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