40th anniversary of Sea Shepherd

Published on Wed 6 December 2017 10:24am

Sea Shepherd has often played a lone hand in protecting whales in the Southern Ocean. It has chased and caught criminals involved in the illegal harvest of the Patagonian toothfish and, more recently, it has assisted nations in Africa and the Pacific to monitor and stop unlicensed, harmful foreign fishing operations.

Mr Wilson (10:24am) — The Fremantle community has a history of leadership and activism. When you take on that kind of leadership, it means putting your head above the parapet and copping the criticism that follows. Sometimes, it’s a matter of backing in those who have the courage to lead a life of activism, and that’s certainly the case in the connection between Fremantle and Sea Shepherd—an organisation that fights to protect our oceans and marine life, an organisation that stops illegal fishing practices in circumstances where national governments and international law seem disappointingly powerless.

This year, 2017, marks 40 years of activism by Sea Shepherd, and I was glad to attend a recent event in Fremantle which showcased the kinds of desperately needed and successful campaigns it has run and continues to run. Sea Shepherd has often played a lone hand in protecting whales in the Southern Ocean. It has chased and caught criminals involved in the illegal harvest of the Patagonian toothfish and, more recently, it has assisted nations in Africa and the Pacific to monitor and stop unlicensed, harmful foreign fishing operations. It is a matter of considerable pride that Sea Shepherd campaigns are so well supported by the Fremantle community and that a number of people who have played leadership roles in Sea Shepherd call Fremantle home. They include: Managing Director, Australian Operations, Jeff Hansen, and his wife, Marina; Mike and Liza Dicks and their daughter, Georgie; and many others.

It was back in 2006 that Mayor Peter Tagliaferri showed his leadership in announcing that Fremantle would be the Australian home port for Sea Shepherd. It’s a status that is consonant with Fremantle’s place as a vibrant fishing community, because rigorous marine protection and sustainable fisheries go together. Anyone who suggests that ocean conservation is at odds with sustainable, responsible, healthy, long-term fishery management has got rocks in their head. Unfortunately, the Abbott-Turnbull government’s cynical and methodical wrecking of Labor’s national network of marine protected areas has removed 50 per cent of the marine sanctuary zones, including sanctuaries that covered the Perth Canyon, Rowley Shoals and Geographe Bay in Western Australia. Many of the areas removed are at the edge of our Commonwealth waters, where the only viable fishing operation in future will come in the form of foreign, large-scale industrial fishing, including through the use of supertrawlers. That kind of destructive, indiscriminate factory fishing should never occur in our oceans, and Australia should be leading the global effort to see them stopped elsewhere.

Last year, Sea Shepherd conducted a campaign in waters around Timor-Leste which uncovered an illegal Chinese fishing operation that was killing indiscriminately and outside its licence. The World Wildlife Fund has estimated that the Pacific tuna fishery, managed sustainably, could be worth $400 million per annum. That resource should only be used on a regulated and sustainable basis for the benefit of our Pacific neighbours, not left prone to industrial fishing savagery. Australia has the capacity, and we should take the responsibility, of supporting countries in our region to protect their marine environment. Sea Shepherd is showing the way. The Australian government would do well to follow. The Fremantle community is very proud to be a place that Sea Shepherd calls home.

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