After last year's successful actions against illegal bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean, Sea Shepherd is facing a legal setback. The activist organization, subject on Animal Planet's Whale Wars series, has been hit by a lawsuit brought by Maltese fishermen who claim Sea Shepherd caused them commercial damage. As a result the Shepherd's ship the Steve Irwin is being detained in the Shetland Islands by a British court.Should the bond of over $1.4 million not be posted the ship will be held until the trial and possibly sold. Sea Shepherd is soliciting donations to help raise the money to get their ship back.
At the heart of the issue is whether or not the bluefin caught by Fish and Fish Limited were legally caught. The fishermen of course insist they were followign the law. Sea Shepherd maintains that the fish "were illegally caught after the season [had] closed, without an inspector onboard, or any paperwork documenting the legality of their catch."
Though there are quotas for Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna, many marine scientists believe these are set too high to allow the iconic fish to not be fished into extinction in the coming years. Furthermore, widespread and blatant illegal fishing for the hyper-profitable fish means that the actual numbers of bluefin caught are far in excess of the official quota levels.