The Sam Simon chases the Kunlun out of its hunting grounds in the Southern Ocean.	Photo: Jeff WirthThe Sam Simon chases the Kunlun out of its hunting grounds in the Southern Ocean. Photo: Jeff WirthSea Shepherd Captains Peter Hammarstedt and Siddharth Chakravarty have congratulated Spanish authorities on the arrest of six people following raids on the headquarters of known fishing crime syndicate, Vidal Armadores.

Reports indicate that the six arrested, including company owner Antonio Vidal Suárez, are accused of illegally fishing for Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish.

Vidal Armadores is the most notorious of a handful of Spanish-based fishing outfits that are believed to have controlling interests in the illegal trade of vulnerable toothfish. 

In 2002, the family-owned company made international headlines when Australian authorities famously pursued the Vidal-owned vessel, Viarsa 1, off of sub-Antarctic Heard Island for suspected toothfish poaching. That same year United States officials seized an illegal shipment of Vidal Armadores toothfish.

Many of the company’s ships have ended up on international blacklists, including the KunlunYongding and Songhua; three of the “Bandit 6” toothfish poaching vessels that have been the focus of Sea Shepherd’s last two Southern Ocean Defense Campaigns, Operation Icefish and Operation Icefish 2015-16.

In February 2015, during Operation Icefish, Captain Chakravarty and the crew of the Sea Shepherd ship, Sam Simon, intercepted the Yongding and Kunlun in Australian Antarctic waters. 

Capt. Chakravarty intercepts the Kunlun during Operation Icefish. Photo: Giacomo GiorgiCapt. Chakravarty intercepts the Kunlun during Operation Icefish. Photo: Giacomo GiorgiCaptain Chakravarty then pursued the Kunlun out of its hunting grounds in the Southern Ocean. International attention on the Kunlun and the issue of toothfish poaching ensued, and the vessel was prevented from returning to its poaching operations in the Southern Ocean, before it was arrested in Senegal last month.

Then in May 2015, the Songhua and Yongding were apprehended in Cabo Verde, West Africa, thanks to intelligence provided to international law enforcement by Captain Hammarstedt.

"For over a decade the owners behind the Bandit 6 have remained hidden behind a shroud of mystery. Sea Shepherd’s actions on the oceans to shut down their fishing operations have been hugely successful. With the ships out of commission, land-based investigations and raids by various authorities in Spain are now taking the enforcement to the source of the illegal trade,” said Captain Chakravarty.

Sea Shepherd has also highlighted the importance of continued international cooperation in battle the against illegal fishing.

“These recent arrests are evidence of the critical role of Interpol’s Fisheries Crime Unit and international cooperation in the fight against illegal fishing,” said Captain Hammarstedt. “Global collaboration is essential to combat this crime which is also global, both in its nature and in its impact,” he concluded.

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