Few people visiting seafood restaurants realize the impact that their food choices have on our oceans. The reality is that there simply aren’t plenty of fish left in the sea. In fact, our appetite for Chilean Sea Bass, also known as toothfish, has driven these animals into oblivion. This has led international authorities to step up their punishments for illegal poaching of these species, and in Indonesia, the response to illegally catching these fish is quite literally explosive.
On March 14, 2016, Indonesian authorities bombed the last major ship internationally wanted for years of illegally netting toothfish, sending a clear message to potential poachers who consider entering the country’s waters. In the video above, the Indonesian Navy is shown having seized the Viking, one of the half dozen ships dubbed the “Bandit 6” by the nonprofit Sea Shepherd Global, which has been hunting down these ships for years.
During the late 80s and early 90s, the market for toothfish took off as fisheries sought alternatives for dwindling cod populations. Because their high oil content makes these fish difficult to cook, they became highly prized in upscale restaurants. Poaching of Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish is so lucrative that illegal fishermen call it “white gold.” According to Sea Shepherd, a 1,500-ton catch, not uncommon for one vessel, can be worth as much as $83 million.
The sinking of the final known ship is the culmination of the tough stance the country has taken on illegal fish poaching since 2014. Since that time, about 150 illegal fishing boats from around the word have been detonated for their actions.
This moment isn’t just good news for toothfish, though. Last year, the Associated Press exposed that slaves trafficked from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand from were being kept on a remote island in Indonesia, forced to fish with little or no pay for years at a time. Since then, more than 2,000 men have been freed and returned home.
The best way we can all ensure that fish and people are protected is to be more mindful of the impact our food has on our planet and others. Poaching wouldn’t be such an enticing business if it wasn’t so lucrative, meaning we all have a role to play when it comes to using our dollars to speak up for animals, people, and the planet. By not purchasing fish, particularly Chilean Sea Bass, we can help end this illegal market.