Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pete Gets His Sea Legs

One could be forgiven for thinking Pete Bethune had given up on saving the planet.
After his brush with Japanese law and his bitter departure from Sea Shepherd, he established Earthrace Conservation, aiming to save Mother Earth by both education and direct action. However after a brief flurry of start-up activity, there've been no posts on its website since Sept.2011! But lo, the Bethune Boy is back!
Late last month, he launched a new vessel in Auckland. The craft, which can travel on both land and sea, is named Sealegs after the NZ company that developed it.
Pete and Co.want to tackle illegal fishing off the African coast this Nthrn.summer, and according to Sealegs, the new craft is perfect for their kind of missions: "Our vessels don't need a boat ramp - they can be launched and landed on almost any beach or pebble shore and that is a great tactical advantage." These amphibious vessels have been increasingly used by law enforcement and military units around the world because of the flexibility that a land/sea capability offers.
Coastal Africa has seen a dramatic increase in so-called 'pirate fishing', dominated by vessels from Asia and to a lesser degree Europe, that take advantage of Africa's lack of Navy and Coastguard vessels. Bethune: "A few years ago, pirate fishing was limited to offshore areas, but now it's prevalent throughout the inshore fisheries as well. This is having a devastating effect on local communities. It removes local employment, in many cases displacing families that've fished their waters for many generations. It removes their principal source of animal protein, in many cases forcing them to target endangered land wildlife. Finally, it steals from these countries one of the few sources they have for foreign exchange earnings."
All valid points, but read on...Earthrace and Albany-based Sealegs (the world’s largest manufacturer of amphibious boats) upgraded this vessel together. Bethune brought in several members of his team who've served in the US Navy Seals to help: "These guys have been in many maritime combat situations, and were invaluable in making it tactically more effective. We changed the layout, electronics, masthead... the result is a real beast that sets a benchmark for amphibious assault vessels." They've even added a military-grade thermal night-vision camera.
In the photo, his team all dressed in black look very military, and Bethune does has a reputation for aggression. I hope he keeps in mind that he is a civilian, and will be working WITH African govt agencies... he won't BE the law enforcement.

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