Dunno why Royal New Zealand Navy officials have got to be so damned prissy.
According to the NZ Herald, last night they were seeking permission to board two fishing vessels in the Southern Ocean which have been found with illegal catches.
The offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington has been monitoring the ships, Songhua and Kunlun, for close to a week and has captured video evidence of fishermen hauling in Antarctic toothfish – one of the most lucrative catches in the world.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the vessels were using gill nets, which were banned in the strictly regulated fishery around Antarctica because they were considered damaging to the marine ecosystem.
So – a fair cop, by the sounds of it.
But dammit, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said both ships were flagged to Equatorial Guinea
…and New Zealand had contacted that country’s Government to seek permission to board the vessels.
He said the two fishing vessels were “well known, repeat offenders” in the Southern Ocean.
Ships from Equatorial Guinea have obviously strayed far from home when they are found in Antarctic waters.
But they are a wayward pair for other reasons:
Records from the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) show the vessels were on a blacklist for “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing.
Mr McCully said the vessels had previously been linked to Spanish interests and the Spanish Government had also been alerted.
Interpol had now been asked to put out an alert which would prevent the Songhua and Kunlun from offloading their catch at nearby ports.
So what the hell are we doing with all this bollocks about seeking permission to board them?
That’s the sort of namby-pamy stuff Alf would expect from Chris Finlayson, if he were running things.
The bugger has just been given a New Year’s Honours gong.
Let him show he deserves it.
He can do this by being less precious.
Mr McCully said the photographic evidence collected by the navy could be used in potential legal action against the ships’ owners.
Punishing illegal activity in the Southern Ocean has proven difficult in the past. Offending ships changed flags or were handed down small fines by their Governments. The New Zealand navy was not permitted to seize the ships.
CCAMLR records showed Kunlun had been on a blacklist since 2004 and had changed ownership several times. Songhua had been on the organisation’s radar since 2008.
Pictures released by the New Zealand Defence Force showed the two run-down ships hauling in several large toothfish specimens.
Okay. We can’t seize them.
So let’s blow the buggers out of the water.
Not so long ago we were celebrating our role in the Battle of the River Plate.
Veterans and nearly 600 sailors are taking part in a parade down Auckland’s Queen Street today to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate.
This was the first naval battle of the Second World War and the only episode of the war to take place in South America with one of the main ships, HMS Achilles, manned by 312 New Zealand Navy personnel. The battle was a victory for the Allies.
We didn’t seek Hitler’s permission to shell the Graf Spee, whose captain later scuttled her.
Nor should we be pussy-footing around seeking the approval of some tinpot dictator in Equatolrial Guinea.
It’s a country run by a nasty piece of goods, according to the BBC:
The country has exasperated a variety of rights organisations who have described the two post-independence leaders as among the worst abusers of human rights in Africa.
Francisco Macias Nguema’s reign of terror – from independence in 1968 until his overthrow in 1979 – prompted a third of the population to flee. Apart from allegedly committing genocide against the Bubi ethnic minority, he ordered the death of thousands of suspected opponents, closed down churches and presided over the economy’s collapse.
His successor – Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo – took over in a coup and has shown little tolerance for opposition during the three decades of his rule.
He doesn’t sound like someone we should be trying to talk with.
There was a time in British history when sending a gunboat was a reference to the Victorian Royal Navy’s fleet of small warships, which enforced the Pax Britannica around the world for half a century.
Frequently acting without orders, and largely beyond the reach of Admiralty interference, their young commanding officers intervened to stamp out the slave trade and to stop local rulers from interfering with ‘legitimate’ trade.
Let’s take a leaf out of their book.
We have sent the gunboat. Now let’s use it.