A FORMER deck hand who blew the whistle on illegal shark finning by commercial fishermen in the Northern Territory says he has received death threats.
The Darwin man, who did not want to be identified and who has gone into hiding, said he received an anonymous phone call an hour after speaking to the Northern Territory News.
He said he was told by an unidentified caller: "Keep your mouth shut or you'll end up as croc bait."
Later that night, as he walked to catch a taxi in Darwin city, a man bumped into him and said: "Give it up, you have been told what will happen."
The disgruntled deckie spoke out after reading reports about Indonesians plundering northern Australia's waters for shark fins.
Further investigations by the Northern Territory News has revealed an organised shark finning network involving commercial fishermen and agents in Darwin who supply the black market in Asia.
"Don't worry about the Indonesians - it's happening right here in the Territory," the man said.
"It's a bit like the pot calling the kettle black to complain about the Indonesians."
Fins can be sold for as much as $600/kg on the black market. The man said he witnessed the sister boat's skipper cut the fins off up to a dozen sharks, and that he also saw two large tiger shark fins about 70cm in diameter in his boat's freezer.
"When I asked my skipper what he was going to do with them, he said he was taking them back to Darwin to sell on the black market," the man said.
"It wasn't just our boat that was shark finning illegally," he said.
"I knew of at least two others doing it in the bay we were fishing."
When the Northern Territory News contacted a commercial fisherman and put the allegations to him, he denied all knowledge of it happening on his boats.
"It's against our company policy to do that," he said, adding the only fins taken off his boat were legal by catch, which is documented and sold to a Queensland agent.
He said he sacked four workers earlier this year when they were caught trying to sell fins illegally in Nhulunbuy.
Source: Northern Territory News
Experience or stupidity may get you there..., only training will get you back!
Whilst working as Dive shop manager in the Philippines, on an island near south china sea, I saw first hand the kind of justice that is handed out to illegal fishers. We were out on tour with the coast guard, they used our boat as it was the fastest in the area. Having no guests on board was not a problem as on this day we were after dynamite or cyanide fishers. We anchored on one side of an island, which we had been told was frequented by the fishers. Was'nt long afterwards that we heard the explosion. We set off to see if there was any sign of the criminals. Arriving on the other side of the island I saw 4 boats in two pairs dragging nets through the water to scoop up the dead fish. The guard commander gave an order to his men and they opened fire on the boats and the people in them. The boats were shot to pieces. It was chaos, people dead in the water, some still alive shouting for help. I was about to order my captain to pick them up. But the guard commander said No that these people had been to court 4 times and had paid a lot of money to buy their way out of jail. This time it was the end of them. Against all my protests of leaving the living in the water he just shook his head and said it would not take long for the sharks to finish them off. He also told me NOT to say anything about what I had seen. If I had not seen this with my own two eyes I would not have believed it. Apparently this kind of vigilante justice is quite often dished out so that in fact the amount of illegal fishing in the Philippines has in fact gotten better.
Indonesian Gunboat Fires on Chinese Fishing Fleet, 1 Fisherman Dead By Tim Johnston Jakarta 21 September 2005
An Indonesian naval vessel has fired on a Chinese fishing fleet, which was allegedly operating illegally. The Indonesian navy says that one fisherman was killed and two others injured in the incident. The government is trying to crack down on illegal exploitation of the country's resources, from fish to timber.
The Indonesian navy says it suspected the four Chinese ships of using illegal fishing nets, but when it tried to stop them to investigate, the crews did not respond to radio and visual messages and tried to flee.
The Indonesian patrol boat then opened fire on the largest of the vessels with a heavy machine gun, killing one crewman and injuring two others. The damaged ship has been towed to a nearby port, and the navy is searching for the other three boats.
The incident happened on Monday, near the province of Papua in the east of the Indonesian archipelago, but information emerged only on Wednesday.
The Chinese embassy in Jakarta says it is looking into the incident.
Illegal fishing is a common problem around Indonesia's 14,000 poorly policed islands, but Jakarta has recently tried to clamp down on the trade.
Hasjim Djalal, a member of Indonesia's National Maritime Council, says that illegal fishing costs the country between two and three billion dollars a year, but it is not only Chinese fishing vessels that are the problem.
"It's not directed against China at all," he said. "There are so many other illegal fishermen in Indonesian waters, it may just simply happen to be Chinese, there are quite a lot of Taiwanese also, there are quite a lot of Thailand, quite a lot of other, with the Philippines from time to time. There are always boats fishing illegally in Indonesian archipelagic waters in that area."
Illegal logging and fishing have been growth industries over the past 10 years, in part because of demand from China, which has seen dramatic economic growth in recent years. The Indonesian government, which is struggling to deal with a growing financial crisis, has begun trying to plug the holes that are robbing it of revenue.
Idealism is what precedes experience; cynicism is what follows.