More than fifty years ago I began to make my living as a fisherman. I was employed as mate on a whale-catcher, I dived for abalone, I caught pilchards on the West Coast of South Africa and trawled for sole on the Agulhas Bank. I netted herring in the North Sea and boated great tuna fish in the North Atlantic.

During those early years of my sea-going experience fishing methods were still very similar to those of a hundred years ago. No echo sounders, radio beacons, sonar or GPS assisted the fisherman in finding and catching fish and, apart from whale-hunting, not a great deal of damage was inflicted upon life in the oceans.

Then, a technology explosion took place in the fishing industry! New, invisible nylon nets and lines were invented with hydraulic machines that could set and haul this equipment. Echo sounders became fish finders, coupled to sonar devices developed during the cold submarine war between the USA and the Soviet Union. Manmade satellites scrutinized the seas for temperature, currents and fish densities. Larger, vastly more powerful fishing craft were built and the onslaught on the fish world became total.

Although by then I was in the merchant navy I closely followed the advance of these inventions to kill more and more fish and observed the horrendous waste that is euphemistically called the ‘bycatch’ or ‘collateral damage’ as the military likes to call a spot of  absent-minded murder.  I was not at all surprised to learn that by the turn of the century it was scientifically ‘estimated’ that during the last fifty years 95% of the world’s fish population had ‘disappeared’. Not only the fish paid a heavy toll, dolphins paid with their lives for their friendly companionship with tuna fish. The unheard bell also tolled for tens of thousands of ocean birds, drowned on the hundred of thousands of longline hooks set for bottom fish. Led by voracious Japan the whale-hunting industry lifted its ugly head again, followed by Norway and Iceland. The Whale Commission is a sad joke as poorer member countries are bribed to say ‘yes’ to resumed whaling. Splendid high-protein, silver-blinking sardines are fed by the millions of tons into the maws of the fish factory grinders to be turned into foul-smelling, lowgrade fishmeal. I won’t go on but must tell you that during the last twenty years I became ashamed of ever having been part of that fishing industry.

What could be done to stop the rape of the oceans? Politicians and commission members are landlubbers and of a cowardly nature when confronted with ‘big business’. The story of ‘Ocean Advocate’ is my answer to the despoliation of the seas that is taking place now. It is the story of a 35 meter sailing trimaran equipped with a rocket launcher to blow off the propellers of murdering fishing boats and whale hunters in the wild Southern Ocean. Undetectable by radar, manned by a dedicated crew and capable of speeds of more than forty knots ‘Ocean Advocate’ begins her task to stop the  world-wide plunder of the oceans.

Nicholas Dekker, master mariner.


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