By yesterday afternoon, the Sea Shepherd Society’s Facebook page, which has some 250,000 members, had raised over $300,000 towards having its flagship, the Steve Irwin, released after it was impounded earlier this month in Lerwick, Scotland at the request the Maltese tuna ranching company with which it was in an altercation last summer.
A civil lawsuit was brought against Sea Shepherd by Maltese fishing company Fish and Fish Ltd, which is claiming damages for the blue fin tuna released by activists from their nets in June 2010, fish which Sea Shepherd Society said: “we believe were illegally caught after the season had closed, without an inspector onboard, or any paperwork documenting the legality of their catch”. Over 800 tuna are believed to have been released during the operation, which formed part of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Blue Rage 2010 in the Mediterranean.
Sea Shepherd said it believes it has the necessary evidence to support its case and it “will also give us the opportunity to expose what we allege to be illegal activities by Fish and Fish and we will be aggressively defending the case on this basis” it added.
As of yesterday afternoon, the Sea Shepherd Facebook page said it had raised 21.5 per cent of the $1.4 million it needs by next week to post a bond to prevent the ship from being held indefinitely or, ultimately, sold.
The organisation says the detainment of the ship is delaying it and its crew from getting to the Faeroe Islands to protect endangered pilot whales that are being mercilessly slaughtered. Furthermore, it says it will also inhibit its effectiveness to defend whales from the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary this December.
Fish and Fish had filed a civil lawsuit in the British High Court claiming compensation for damage caused by the Steve Irwin.
Last summer the vessel was involved in an incident with Maltese fishermen off the Libyan coast where the ship’s crew rammed a tuna pan open in an attempt to free the blue fin tuna which, they alleged, had been caught illegally.
The organisation’s website www.seashepherd.org reported this week how two court officials from Aberdeen had arrived on the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin. The officials served Sea Shepherd with a detainment notice because the Maltese fishing company had filed a civil suit alleging that Sea Shepherd had damaged property they claim to own.
The warrant to detain the ship was served on 15 July, on the eve of its departure for the Faeroe Islands.
The Resources and Rural Affairs Ministry had condemned the attack and indicated that all their documentation was in line with the ministry’s policies.
A protester suffered injuries in the clash and needed hospital treatment in Malta, while two Maltese fishermen had been taken to hospital after the clash with the Steve Irwin.
The organisation said it is not particularly worried about the lawsuit “because our actions against illegal fishing operations are taken only after obtaining sufficient evidence to prove that the target is operating illegally, and we believe we have such evidence against Fish and Fish and will be defending the suit on that basis.
“However, let’s not forget that lawsuits can be filed for many reasons. This may have happened for financial redress, or simply because Sea Shepherd has had serious success exposing the illegalities of operations profiting from the destruction of the bluefin tuna and they [Fish and Fish] want to interfere with its activities. Either way, Sea Shepherd is confident that its defence against this suit is strong.”