It's 10pm, in the middle of the North Atlantic. I'm sitting in the campaign office, just behind the bridge of the Esperanza, still wrapped in layers of thermal gear, as I've just spent six hours out in the dark, in an inflatable. But while I'm sitting here, in relative comfort, three of our guys are on board a Lithuanian-flagged bottom trawler, the Anuva. It's going to be a long night.
Bottom trawling destroys the seabed for the sake of very few fish. It's like bulldozing a rainforest in order to pick some fruit.
Late this afternoon, we found the Anuva, bottom trawling on the
high seas. This boat has one dodgy history- despite its Lithuanian
flag, this ship is owned and run from Spain, and was previously
deflagged by Belize for illegal fishing. As Belize is a
well-known flag of convenience, these chancers must have really run
amok, in order to be booted out! Coincidentally, the North East
Atlantic Fisheries Council - who govern this area - are having a
meeting in London at the moment. It's a pity they don't crack down
on these troublemakers...
But back to the story - around 4pm, we had two inflatables
alongside the Anuva. Three activists - our lead campaigner, Dima,
as well as Kate and Ann - climbed up a ladder onto the deck of the
Anuva, wearing the regulation orange jumpsuits, hard hats, and
'Deep Sea Defender' vests. Surprised members of the Anuva's crew
burst out of the bridge when they saw us, but they didn't try to
harm our guys. The trawler started hauling, and our guys were there
to document the net coming up, while we were behind in the
inflatables, shooting photographs and video.
As the trawlermen busied themselves with the deep sea catch,
Kate -with Ann's help - managed to swing herself out onto the
enormous trawl doors, which were groaning from port to starboard
with the trawler's rolling. She attached herself, blocking the
bottom trawler from setting its net again. Meanwhile, Dima and Ann
started a blockade of the net itself, which was lying on the deck,
empty. Kate joined them, and sat on the net as the trawler
transited to a new position.
By now, the night had become inky black - no moon, no stars, and
huge rolling swell. I'm in the inflatable called 'The African
Queen' with Maaike, 'Action Dave', and camera guys Jari and Steve.
As we rise and fall in the big sea, sometimes we're looking up at
the Anuva towering above us - and within seconds it's way down
below us, and we can see right onto the trawl deck.
When the trawler's skipper finally tries to drop his net, he has
to get his men to bodily remove Dima, Ann and Kate from the net -
they're moved aside, and the net is dropped again, for another few
hours of mayhem on the seafloor.
So as I write, we've got people on the bottom trawler, and in
two inflatables. And I'm not done yet.. 'Action Dave' has just come
in to fill me in on what's happening later tonight - so watch this
[The occupation of the ships went on for more than 24 hours. In
a dramatic conclusion to this action, the vessel's captain turned
firehoses on our activists and threw several overboard. You can read the conclusion here.]
about the intrepid Esperanza crew and their efforts against one
of the most destructive fishing practices in the world.
Read more about
image gallery of photographs from the action.
Tell the United Nations you don't want bare bottoms (sea
bottoms, that is):Vote for
Send an e-card - tell your friends that bottom
trawling stinks or show them the mysteries
of the deep
Help the Esperanza campaign against ocean crimes: