In today’s episode we are joined by Peter Hammarstedt, who is the Director of Campaigns for Sea Shepherd Global. He also sits on the Board of Sea Shepherd Global and is Chairman of Sea Shepherd Australia. He is captain of the ocean-going vessel Alan Kay, having spent more than 20 years at-sea including ten years in Antarctica.
In 2014 and 15, the Ship Bob Barker, with Peter as Captain, set the world record for the longest pursuit of a poaching vessel at sea after chasing the Interpol wanted fishing vessel “Thunder” for 110 days— covering three oceans and 11,000 nautical miles—before its captain intentionally sank his own vessel in a bid to destroy evidence.
Produced by Hannah Smith.
Transcript of the interview with Captain Peter Hammarstedt
Hi I’m Dominic Bowen host of The International Risk Podcast. Today we’re joined by Captain Peter Hammerstead. Peter is a Swedish American and director of campaigns for Sea Shepherd Global he sits on the board of Sea Shepherd Global and he’s the Chairman.
Thanks very much for joining us today. Peter, be great if you could start by telling our listeners a little bit about your organization how you got involved with a sea shepherd and what are the risks.
Dominic thank you so much for having me on the show.
Sea Shepherd Global is an international marine conservation organization based out of Amsterdam, Netherlands. We have branches or affiliated chapters around the world from Australia to Germany to Italy to Switzerland. And what all of those entities have in common is they support a fleet of ships that are out on the oceans day after day taking direct action to protect marine wildlife and we have a very innovative approach to doing it. What we specifically do is partner with governments around the world particularly in developing countries with the political will to stop illegal fishing but whose economic resources may be stretched and so they may have a navy they may have a coast guard but they don’t have. The ocean-going assets that can cover the entirety of their waters. My journey to sea shepherd started when I was very young, fourteen years old, and I saw a picture of a dead whale being pulled up the slipway of an eight Thousand Ton factory whaling ship operating in the Antarctic and that image just shocked me to my core. I just could not believe that whaling was still going on I thought it was a relic of the past and I came to realize that the oceans are out of sight and out of mind for most people and on seeing that image I knew that I wanted to be 1 of the people who shut down.
Campaigning against whaling for most of my adult life, I came to the realization that whaling was not the root problem facing the world’s oceans. Whaling was symptomatic of a more problematic relationship that we have with the oceans. And that industrial fishing kills more whales and dolphins than all the whaling fleets of the world combined.
I think anyone that’s seen any of the photos of industrial whaling or the hunting of whales very quickly finds it quite abhorrent. But yeah I understand from you and from the research that the team has been doing that there is a much greater problem when it comes to industrial fishing. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what does it mean? How big a problem is it and why is it a problem?
The United Nations Food and agriculture organization, the UNFAO, states that 90% of the world’s fisheries are either fully exploited or overexploited and that means that just 10% are underfished. This overfishing problem is a massive human issue. Because the majority of the world’s population lives close to the coast and the majority of those people depend on fish as their primary food source what we’ve seen is the industrialization of fishing over the past hundred and fifty years and we just cannot imagine how bountiful the oceans once were when fishing vessels showed up off the coast of Newfoundland in the in the North Atlantic in North America Three hundred years ago to fish for cod. The Ship captains in their logbooks noted that there was so much cod that you could throw a bucket overboard and then pull that bucket back up on deck and it would be overflowing with cod some ship captains noted in their logbooks that there was so much cod that they could have almost walked along their backs or over their backs ashore. Sometimes ships would have to stop for a full 24 hours to allow for a traffic jam of of whales and dolphins to pass their bow. We can’t even imagine that the oceans were so rich once upon a time because each subsequent generation has adapted to diminishment.
And so now we’re excited and lucky to see um a handful of humpback whales if we go off the coast of Australia, whereas in the past ships would have to stop for hours. If you look at shark populations shark populations have fallen by 90% in just the past fifty years at such a rate that one out of 3 species of sharks are endangered and the fact that sharks an apex predator in the ecosystem is being taken out of the food web is having rippling effects on other species and exacerbating all of these problems fueling them is illegal fishing. And it’s believed that one out of 5 fish is caught illegally, that’s 20% of the global catch of fish is caught through illegal unreported, unregulated fishing. So it’s the position of sea shepherd that if we have this overfishing problem and. We need to turn back that tide of destruction then the strategic place to begin would be in the area where we already have the laws on our side and if we want to address the issue of overfishing then by removing illegal fishing. We take away 20% of global fishing pressures. And that will hopefully allow the oceans to recover.
For those of us that aren’t intimately involved in the fishing trade I mean those those statistics are huge. Shark populations falling by 90%, 1 in 3 Shark species are endangered and of course taking out the apex predator has massive second and third order effects across the entire food chain. These are quite striking statistics Peter and when you talk about 20% of fishing being illegal that seems like a really huge number. It is a huge number. It’s 20%, 1 in 5. How does that occur is some of it state sponsored or state sanctioned? How do we get to 1 in 5?
What we’re seeing is a huge European Union-backed fishing fleet and a massive Chinese distant water fishing fleet that are operating in areas where monitoring control and surveillance is difficult. Because the Bhinese fishing fleet has largely eliminated fish off the coast of China, you have the the government in Beijing funding for this distant water fishing fleet to go to remote areas of the world to fish where historically there are still fish. You have a European Union fishing fleet that’s subsidized heavily by the European Union, subsidized to such an extent that the European Union fishing fleet, vessels from Spain, France, Portugal, are at a fishing capacity of about 2.5 times of what they could sustainably fish off the coast of Europe. And so in order to satiate the growing demand for fish in Europe, the United States, and the people’s republic of China, you have these foreign fleets operating in areas where economic resources are stretched where it’s difficult to enforce existing laws and in some cases where the laws are almost nonexistent. What’s happened is that you have transnational organized crime. You have criminal syndicates backing a lot of this. You have vessels that are transshipping the catch at sea.
And it’s easier to launder fish than it is to launder money. By the time the fish ends up in supermarkets or on restaurant tables in Europe Australia the United States, it’s very difficult to track that fish to the initial operator catching fish. I see illegal fishing like any other type of crime I look at it through the lens of economics; people break the law when it’s easy to get away with it, when there’s very little risk of getting caught, when it’s extremely lucrative, there’s a lot of money to be made and even if you do get caught the penalties are very low. And unfortunately, illegal fishing like most wildlife crime checks those 3 boxes. You’re very unlikely to get caught. The payoff is big and even if you do get caught, the penalties are quite low. For the past three-four years, we’ve been working with the government of Benin in West Africa to fight illegal fishing when we arrived in Benin, the Benanese navy had not been to the outer limit of their exclusive economic zone since Benin received or got independence from France, 60-65 years previous, there hadn’t been an arrest of an illegal fishing vessel in many many years and so when we assisted the Benhannese Navy to arrest 3 vessels fishing in a marine park on the border between Benin and Togo. It was huge news in Benin.
Such big news that the president of Benin even took an interest in the case and when he was told by the maritime commissioner that the maximum penalty for these 2-3 vessels fishing in the marine park was ten Thousand Euros he was shocked but the fisheries regulations hadn’t been amended for decades and decades that resulted in a political process in Benin where the fisheries regulations were updated and amended so a year ago when we assisted the Bennanese Navy to arrest another 2 vessels those 2 ships were prosecuted under the new regulations. Each vessel was fined two hundred and seventy Thousand Euros the captains were sentenced to eleven months imprisonment they were tried under a special court on economic crimes and terrorism and the 2 vessels were also forfeited to the state.
And that seems like a much more appropriate penalty for the sort of crimes that are being undertaken I know there’s the story that that some people will be familiar with and that that you will know intimately. When you were the captain of Bob Barker back in 2014 and in 2015, we’d love to hear your side of the story about the world’s record for the longest pursuit of a poaching vessel at sea after chasing an Interpol-wanted fishing vessel called Thunder for one hundred and ten days. I understand you covered 3 oceans and Eleven Thousand Nautical miles and then it ended ah very dramatically can you perhaps share that story with us Peter?
Thunder was the most notorious fishing vessel in the world. This was a vessel that was on several international blacklists. It was wanted by the international criminal police organization Interpol and in its 10-year poaching career. It had made an illicit profit of $60,000,000. This was a vessel that was the subject of every fishing seminar on illegal fishing that you could think of and it hadn’t been seen for years because this was a ship that would change its name and change its flag frequently. The Australian Customs and border protection would fly over this ship. They would document their illegal activity and then as soon as the surveillance plane was over the horizon. The ship would already be operating under a different name. We had a crazy idea of how we would shut them down. The idea was that we would sail to the most remote area of ocean in the world, a place in the southern ocean that’s two weeks sailing from Perth and western Australia two weeks sailing from cape town, south Africa, it’s a real no man’s land. The idea was that if we found this ship then we would follow it wherever it went and as long as we had eyes on the vessel we could provide real-time intelligence to law enforcement agencies around the world and as long as we kept an eye on this ship they couldn’t change their name, they couldn’t change their flag. We would follow them wherever they went.
Called the Sam Simon, now named age of union, it set off to confiscate any illegal fishing gear that we discovered and after just two days into searching for thunder, this vessel emerged out of the fog and thus began what would become the longest maritime chase in history. We follow this ship for one hundred and ten days, they try to lose us in the ice floes that surround the frozen continent of the antarctic they try to lose us in the heavy seas that the southern ocean are renowned for. They steered for storms with 7 eight meter seas they tried to wait us out for about a month and a half they shut down their engine and tested our patients and just tried to drift and hoped that we would lose interest. Our sister ship pulled up seventy-two kilometers of illegal fishing net that they abandoned. When we found them finally after one hundred and ten days covering three oceans about eighty nautical miles off the small island state of sao tome and princippe in the gulf of guinea, the ship started to sink and the captain of thunder unable to shake us as his pursuers decided to sink his own ship to destroy the evidence on board. I remember standing on the bridge of my ship watching this ship go down watching this vessel that I’d had my eyes on for almost four months disappear under the surface of the ocean sinking to a depth of about three thousand five hundred meters, which is the same depth to which the titanic sank, and wondering why out of out of all the places in the world, why did the captain of thunder decide to sink his ship off the island of sao tome. When we handed the rescued crew all 40 of them including the captain over to the south domain coast guard they came out in 2 small boats with a range limited to about twenty nautical miles or a quarter of the distance to where thunder sank eighty miles offshore. I came to the realization that the reason why the thunder Captain sank his ship in the gulf of guinea is that he knew that no navy or coast guard was going to come out and salvage the ship with submersible pumps. He sank his ship in the gulf of guinea for the same reason why that area is a hotbed of tranceshipment. Piracy, illegal fishing, human trafficking namely that there’s inadequate monitoring control and surveillance for the same reason why the pirates off the coast of Nigeria are able to kidnap sailors offshore is the same reason why the Thunder Captain sank his ship off sao tome. And so that is what really started the the relationship building the the projects of collaboration and cooperation that came out of that where we started working with governments around West Africa to shut down illegal fishing because the reality is that illegal fishing can only exist in an area where there are monitoring control and surveillance problems and countries that have an issue with illegal fishing are also countries with a risk for other types of maritime crime.
Very interesting. A couple of years ago on the podcast we had a guest and we were speaking a lot about the former kidnapping off the coast of Somalia and one of the things we’re talking about is how it’s now shifted because of the the policing efforts off the coast to now moving to the coast of West Africa and it sounds very similar to the trends of illegal fishing.
And the Somalia example is really interesting because the first 2 vessels that were ever hijacked off Somalia were 2 Russian trawlers and the original somali pirates were essentially unemployed fishermen who organized as a kind of unofficial coast guard now. Later it was criminal syndicates with terrorism affiliations that took over piracy when piracy became big business off Somalia but the first 2 hijackings that occurred were actually kind of ah an unofficial vigilante coast guard. What stopped piracy of course are these convoys of military vessels from Japan from the european union from the United States allowing vessels to transit through unmolested. But these vessels, the european vessels, do not have a mandate to look at illegal fishing at all. So while piracy is down in the gulf of aden illegal fishing is on the increase and there are hundreds of vessels fishing illegally off the coast of Somalia today vessels from Iran from Yemen that are documented and observed by western navies who don’t have the mandate to intervene and it’s extremely problematic because this in some cases was the root cause of piracy to begin with and yet the illegal fishermen have moved right back in.
I was speaking to a board of directors from ah from a large european company the other day and one of the things I said in my opening marks and in my closing remarks is that criminal groups are unrelenting. They are unrelenting and they are innovative and they are fast usually faster than the good guys. And I think we and we certainly see that in the illegal fishing trade as well. You talked about heavy seas ice packs 7 or eight meter waves seventy two kilometers of of fishing nets. You know huge huge distance, the risks to you and as the captain of the ship so you’ve got a responsibility for your ship, you’ve got a responsibility to your donors and funders, you’ve got a responsibility for the lives of the crew members on your board. How was that weighed up? You obviously had a really important mission that although it was the most wanted ships on Interpol, you still had other risks that you had to mitigate. How did you go through that process?
And there’s a responsibility for the safety of the crew on the other vessel too right? So that’s what’s unique about being a captain of a sea shepherd ship. It’s not just that you have the responsibility of the safety of your own ship and crew, but you have a responsibility for the safety of the ship and crew of any vessel you engage with, even if they are involved in illegal activity. You also have a responsibility for the safety of the marine wildlife that you’ve sought to protect. So it’s a lot of responsibility that we juggle. It’s why I think it just makes sense to partner with countries along the coastline. But before the thunder case I thought that you could just go, I knew nothing about fishing, I was a whaling guy. So I thought you could just go offshore and find fish anywhere. As I learned more about fishing I discovered that 90% of the fish caught in the world is caught in the waters of a country in the territorial sea or what’s known as the exclusive economic zone. In other words, there is a country with the laws with the authority to actually enforce the laws for 90% of the world’s fishery and so if we want to stop illegal fishing, we have to partner with governments to do it and in doing so we partner with Navy teams with coast guard teams with fisheries inspectors with government agencies with law enforcement detachments that have the authority to board inspect and arrest ships. We essentially provide the transportation to get the police to the scene of the crime we provide some training as well as lessons that we learn from the other countries where we’re working. But it’s the countries that are taking the charge we’re just providing this critical tool that’s missing from the law enforcement toolbox so the dangers to us are now greatly reduced in that we do have armed law enforcement detachments from the host country on board our ship but that’s not to say that there aren’t risks. A couple of years ago I mentioned we’ve been working in Benin for a number of years, while we were on a fisheries patrol together with the benanese navy, there was an attempted piracy attack by nigerian pirates who approached the vessel came within fifty meters of the Stern sneaking up on the wake of our ship in the early hours of the morning. But thankfully because of the anti piracy mitigation strategy that we have on board because the bennese navy was stationed on board. The ship they were able to fire warning shots and the pirates abandon their plans but this is a dangerous area that we’re operating in.
Yeah mean you talked about the the West African Coast experiencing that concentration of overfishing by European and Chinese trawlers. I’d be really keen to hear what does this actually look like off the coast of West Africa at the moment like is it a traffic jam with illegal fishing just trawling or is it just one boat that you see every few weeks? What does it actually look like? Then of course we’d love to hear what is the actual implication. To people sitting at home whether they’re listening to the podcast in London oslo stockholm or Melbourne and what does this actually mean for them?
So when we say that 20% of the global catch of fish is caught through illegal unreported and unregulated fishing actually about 40% of the fish caught off the coast of West Africa is caught through so-called IUU fishing so the level of criminality is very high and in the countries where we’ve been working Liberia Gabon Benin we’ve seen illegal fishing greatly reduced almost to the point of being eliminated. I think to answer your question, we have to really define what is IUU fishing? It’s a term that’s used regularly, especially within different international forums that talk about risk and what does this acronym really mean and when we talk about illegal fishing what we mean is vessels that are fishing without a license vessels that are fishing using prohibited fishing gear. Countries in order to conserve the fish population have certain minimum fish mesh size requirements. For example, illegal fishing would mean using very small mesh sizes against the regulation. So you’re catching juvenile undersized fish. It can mean taking endangered species. It can mean fishing in marine parks or other protected areas which is especially relevant for West Africa where people are largely dependent on fish as the primary source of protein, where the fish that people buy in the local markets come from the local artisanal fishing communities. They don’t come from the industrial operators usually and the artisanal fishing sector is also one of the largest employers in these countries. There’s a direct conflict there and as a result of that our country partners have set up inshore exclusion zones so these are areas that are reserved for the artisanal fishing communities in a country like Liberia that extends six nautical miles offshore in the Gambia it can extend up to eleven nautical miles offshore in some places. And what that means is that industrial trawlers are not allowed in It’s only the small-scale fishermen in their canoes that are allowed to fish there. But when there’s inadequate monitoring control and surveillance then industrial trawlers come into these prohibited areas all the time and they run over canoes. They run over fishing nets. People die at sea because their canoes are sunk and as the fish populations also begin to plummet as a result of that the local fishermen take a greater and greater risk going out further and further to sea to catch dwindling fish that makes their job much riskier as well. Liberia is a country where 33000 people depend on the small-scale artisanal fisheries for their livelihood but those are the fishermen right? That doesn’t always include the people who are selling fish in the market who are almost entirely women, the women who work in the smokehouse, the women who sell them are this is the kind of unofficial economy of the country. That’s very difficult to account for because it isn’t always taxed and these are very vulnerable communities and when you look at people migrating. Economic refugees coming from Senegal the gambia going up through the sahara into extremely dangerous places like Libya to make the even more dangerous trip to crossing the mediterranean to try to get to Europe many of these people would probably declare their profession as fishermen. And there’s I think if we’re talking about risk and we’re talking about national security issues. Food security is a national security issue hungry people result in national security issues and that’s why you can’t just look at this as a conservation problem. It’s a problem that deeply affects people, it affects country stability, it affects political stability, and it’s one of many reasons why we have to tackle it.
And so you used the example early on when talking about Somalia and the devastation that that trawling had on communities there, when we do look at west african communities including as you see the articianal fishermen and the the women working within the fishing communities. Yeah, is the impact is devastating I mean I think we all know how the rule of law and how communities in Somalia are still suffering from just the complete devastation of the fishing economy and that ultimately led to huge famines and then a lack of rule of law and you know it’s ah it’s an issue that that we’re still living in and working with today. It’s not the same extent in West Africa is it. Are we heading in that direction or we are we getting ahead of the curve there or what is the situation there and what are the risks facing local communities?
As the livelihoods of artisanal fishermen are getting devastated what we’re seeing is more and more people making the perilous journey through Saharan Africa to try to make their way to Europe. That’s a huge risk for people and for families and we know that people are getting kidnapped by militias. In Libya and people are literally getting sold to slave traders in the north of Africa. The repercussions for people is just horrific barbaric it’s extraordinary the thing about fisheries though is that fish populations have an unbelievable resilience and an ability to bounce back from fishing pressures if the fishing pressures are removed when we arrived in Liberia for the first time in 2017 Liberia was a country still recovering in many ways Liberia was devastated by a 14 year long bloody civil war and when the civil war ended in 2003 not too long thereafter. The country was hit with the deadly ebola epidemic. And as the country was recovering illegal fishing became another challenge on the horizon before we arrived in Liberia local fishermen in a border town called Harper on the border between Liberia and neighboring Cote d’Ivoire or ivory coast. Talking about trawlers coming in on a daily basis and fishing illegally in Liberian waters but also in the inshore exclusion zone that I mentioned earlier the area reserved for them and the local fishermen went on national radio in Liberia and asked for the ministry of national defense. Asked for the Liberian Coast guard to intervene but the Liberian Coast Guard only had a handful of vessel assets that didn’t have the range to go from monrovia the capital to the border and back with. No fuel depots on the way where they could refuel to be able to make that round trip voyage and it is why the the minister of of national defense decided to partner with sea shepherd and just days after this radio broadcast we had our ship the Bob Barker with 6 Liberian Coast Guard sailors stationed on board making the first arrest of a trawler operating in that area out of the 20 ships that have been arrested in Liberia since we started working with liberian authorities in two thousand and seventeen six or 7 of them had been arrested on the border. Near harper and the last vessel to be arrested. There was four years ago the incursions have stopped. They’ve ceased and the communities are reporting bigger fish than they recall ever seeing before fish are coming back and that’s resulting in families investing in houses. For example, people were generally living in tin shacks and now are building cement houses and that has a remarkable increase in life quality and there’s wealth being generated in these communities again for the first time and so places can bounce back very quickly because fish populations are resilient but it requires action and it requires taking those industrial fishing pressures out entirely.
That’s a fantastic story. It’s really great to hear of the just the pew in numbers and you know 20 arrests and ultimately nones seen for the last four years and then the local community is finding you know, bigger fish than they’ve ever seen before. So that’s really positive.
Yeah. But the the issue of course is always We’re always, especially in the west, talking about sustainable fishing, sustainable fisheries, sustainability is the the hot buzzword right? And yet we never allow these areas these fisheries areas to properly rewild when we talk about sustainable fishing today. Whether a fishery is sustainable or not it essentially means can we take the same amount of fish out of these particular waters today that we could a year ago on the same day but we’re already measuring the oceans in a diminished state and we talked about that a little bit earlier. Right? So because we’re never allowing the oceans to fully recover, what we label sustainable today is already it’s rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic this is. What the oceans need to recover to a bountiful state is, to begin with before we can even begin to talk about sustainability.
I mean mitigating risk can definitely be challenging at the best of times and monitoring the effectiveness of our risk mitigation efforts is critical to ensure that we’re having a positive impact and to support continual learning and improvement of our risk management activities. Be great to hear Peter how sea shepherd measures the effectiveness of its conservation efforts.
We do it through but by two basic metrics: the number of criminal operations we shut down, and by the number of marine creatures we’re able to save. Working with 8 countries around the african continent, we’ve assisted our country partners to arrest 84 vessels to date and we’ve saved millions and millions of creatures. But there are so many other ways to measure success. It’s the fish coming back and what I really like about these particular campaigns is that we’re not just focused on animal rights or animal welfare we’re not just focused on conservation. We’re not just focused on social justice issues, we’re working on all 3 at the same time by working on the issue of illegal fishing. That allows us as an organization that has oftentimes been labeled as a whale group. We’re taking a holistic. Approach to conservation.
That’s really positive to hear Peter and listeners of the international risk podcast when we get downloads from out of 180 different countries around the world and you know we have listeners who have a variety of roles from business leaders, government officials, people entering different professions at the start of their careers. What messages do you have for our listeners ah leaders of businesses and corporations as well as people who work for the government about what we can be doing to mitigate the risks of fishing both from an environmental as well as an economic and a social justice perspective?
We need a broad church of stakeholders to be involved in this issue. Technology’s been a game changer in the fight against illegal fishing from now mandatory location transponders that allows law enforcement to monitor vessel traffic in real-time to satellite imagery and technology companies are at the forefront of that and AI technology is going to really be a game changer as well. But at the end of the day, you said it really well when you said that criminals are always ahead of law enforcement by a couple of steps and no technology can fully replace at-sea patrols. When we were patrolling in Benin, for example, we saw that vessels were double bagging the net. So, vessels were complying with the regulations in terms of mesh size of a fishing net for a trawl net but they were putting one net inside of another net and technically this was in compliance with the law. But the law had to be amended to also make that a crime and that would have never been apparent without boardings at sea and so as we look at technological solutions as we look at policy changes that do have to occur and setting aside bigger areas as marine parks. We can’t forget that at the end of the day traditional policing can’t be replaced. We still have to support law enforcement in the field and at times they require basic things they need the transportation to actually go and do their job. What I would encourage people to do is to find their passion area for me it’s been oceans. So for me, my activism, my advocacy is sustainable because it’s anchored in another passion that I have. It’s not just saving the oceans I deeply love being at sea, so if somebody has a background in law, if somebody has a background in technologies, if somebody has a background in business whatever it might be I would urge them to combine that with another passion they have for making the world a better place if that’s fighting illegal fishing or protecting the oceans then that that would be wonderful. But we need all kinds of people we need law enforcement at the scene of the crime we need the donors and support because sea shepherd is entirely funded by donations from the public so we need the financial support to get our ships at Sea. That’s what’s unique about this partnership. Our government partner provides the law enforcement, but it’s our generous donors and supporters around the world who provide the fuel for our ships that allows them to do their job so I would also encourage people to to support us in any way they can.
Fantastic. Thanks very much for sharing that insight Peter. We always ask on the international risk podcast, we’ve obviously spoken about a lot of issues all the way from Antarctica to the west coast of Africa back to America and Australia and all around. But when you watch the news at night or you’re sitting down and relaxing, what are the international risks that concern you the most?
I think it goes without saying that there are huge security implications with the people’s republic of China and there are connections there to the illegal fishing space. We see that in the South China sea and the construction of artificial islands that allow Chinese interest to incur illegally in the waters of countries like the Philippines or Vietnam, we have government subsidies in Beijing that are resulting in the building and expansion of fishing fleets and something that I think has been underreported is that as for fishing companies that accept subsidies from beijing to construct new fishing vessels one of the requirements is that as their vessels are constructed. They need to have reinforced plating on the bow so that these fishing vessels can be commandeered by the state and so that weapons can be mounted on the bow. There’s a huge link between illegal fishing and the rise of China and the chinese distant water fishing fleet is the largest fishing fleet in the world. It also ranks first in the prevalence of illegal fishing. And when we’re looking at the high seas the areas outside of national jurisdiction where the chinese distant water fishing fleet is particularly active. It requires flag states to rein in criminal activity and we need beijing to rein in their fishing fleet something that they have not done to date.
And what’s the motivation behind this pia is it just because of the huge population within China or is there something else behind why China is at the forefront of this illegal activity.
Well, I think the expansion of the fishing fleet can be tracked back thirty years ago and there are political aspirations for the People’s Republic of China to become a great sea power and if you look through histories of great empires, the empires that were successful, were ones that dominated the sea from the Venetian empire to Carthage to great Britain to the United States, and Chinese power has been largely built on economic power and it’s why you see like things like the belt and road initiative and why China is building ports all around the african continent and then having countries become indebted to the people’s republic of China through it. The Chinese distant water fishing fleet is an extension of the political might of beijing and that is why it needs to be taken very very seriously because it does not abide by the rule of law.
Well Peter I’d love to ask you a lot more questions about that. But I think we might have to get you back on for a second conversation to discuss some of the implications of that. But thank you very much for coming on the international risk podcast today.
Thank you very much for having me and thank you for focusing on illegal fishing as a global risk.
We appreciate your insight Peter well that was a great conversation with Captain Peter Hammerstead from sea shepherd. I really appreciated hearing Peter’s thoughts about conservation activities. The impact of effective rule of law on conservation. The development of communities. As well as fighting illegal fishing and protecting the ocean I’m Dominic Bowen host of the international risk podcast. Thanks for listening and we’ll speak again next week.