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Notorious Poaching Vessel Captured After Years On The Run

Indonesia plans to intentionally sink the ship known as ‘Viking.’

Sea Shepherd’s Jolly Roger. (Photo: Courtesy of Sea Shepherd/Flickr)

The last of a notorious band of toothfish poaching vessels has been captured by Indonesia, which plans to intentionally sink the ship, an environmental group said.

The group, known as Sea Shepherd, had been covertly tracking the ship, called Viking, for about three weeks. When it strayed into Indonesian waters, members of the group contacted authorities, and the Indonesian Navy later arrested 11 crew members, including the captain, according to Sea Shepherd.

Patagonian toothfish, marketed as Chilean sea bass in the U.S. and Canada, are legally caught in several parts of the world. But the Viking, officials have said, violated numerous national and international laws in going after the fish, which is sometimes referred to as “white gold” because of the high prices it can fetch on Western markets.

To avoid detection over the years, the Viking constantly changed its names, colors, and international flags (its current flag is that of Nigeria), Interpol has said. Among those names were “Snake,” “Ulyses,” “South Boy,” and “Thor 33,” according to 2013 Interpol documents.

The capture of the Viking was far from Sea Shepherd’s first tangle with suspected poachers. The New York Times reported in July 2015 on Sea Shepherd’s chase of another alleged toothfish poaching vessel, the Thunder, known then as the world’s most notorious poaching ship. The Thunder was eventually scuttled and its crew arrested after a dramatic 110-day chase.

With the capture of the Viking, the group said there are no more known toothfish poaching vessels.