SYDNEY – The East Timorese Police, along with activists of the environmental organization Sea Shepherd, intercepted a Chinese fishing fleet of 15 ships with an alleged illegal cargo of 40 tons of sharks in its holds, Australian media reported Friday.
“We found thousands and thousands of sharks on every single vessel,” Gary Stokes, Asia director of Sea Shepherd, said in a press release.
Sea Shepherd’s Ocean Warrior vessel is currently patrolling the waters in East Timor, also known as Timor Leste, to monitor if the 15 Chinese vessels, owned by Pingtan Marine Enterprise, leave East Timorese waters.
Pingtan, which is listed on the NASDAQ and banned from fishing in Indonesian waters, has a permit granted by the East Timorese Ministry of Fisheries to fish until November.
The Chinese vessels apparently used bottom gill nets to make their catch, with Sea Shepherd documenting the ships retrieving their nets and the catch appeared to be 95 percent sharks, as well as lots of broken coral.
The number of sharks captured could violate Timorese fishing laws as well as the license granted, according to Stokes.
“East Timor is a very poor country and they have no naval assets at all, no patrol vessels, no warships to go out and patrol their waters,” Stokes said, noting that Chinese ships “basically have carte blanche to cruise their waters and take whatever they want.”