While the conflict in Libya continues to rage on, another battle for survival is taking place under the sea just offshore. Bluefin tuna were once an abundant species in the Mediterranean, but after decades of overfishing they are now classified as 'critically endangered'. In hopes of preserving one of the most rapidly dwindling fish, the activist group Sea Shepherd is heading to the war-torn region to fight for the survival of bluefin tuna.
Sea Shepard, fresh off of a long-running operation to hinder the activities of Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean, have set their sights on protecting one of the ocean most threatened -- yet frequently consumed -- species of fish. Despite a global quota on the amount of bluefin tuna that can be harvested, poachers throughout the Mediterranean continue to exceed those limits, particularly in the area off the coast of Libya.
Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd, who founded the organization in 1977, says that the group plans on sending two large vessels into Libyan water, along with several scouting boats, to cut the nets set out by fishermen. In a similar effort last year, Watson says that around 800 bluefin tuna were freed the Sea Shepherd scuba-divers.
The ongoing turmoil in Libya, however, makes for a new and more delicate situation for Watson and his team. According to the Huffington Post, despite the unrest in the region, Sea Shepherd intends to carry out their operations in the unyeilding fashion that the group has achieved notoriety (and infamy) for:
Watson said his group had informed the European Union it will operate in Libyan waters and planned to inform NATO, which is leading the air campaign meant to protect civilians in Libya from attacks, primarily from their own government. Watson spoke by telephone from Cannes, France. The Sea Shepherd boats will set sail from southern France, near Marseille, around June 1.
The expedition carries risks, said Laurens de Groot, the organization's European director.
"We're expecting quite a bit of resistance when we get in there," de Groot said. "We might get into confrontations in which weapons are used. ... If they ram our vessel, we'll stand our ground."
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