i on europe


Brussels blog by some wire service journalists

Activists searching for tuna boats with helicopter


ABOARD THE STEVE IRWIN – The helicopter lifted gingerly off the aft deck of the ship, banked sharply, then sped off a few hundred feet above the Mediterranean whitecaps in search of boats fishing illegally for bluefin tuna — potential targets for activists determined to do what they can to preserve the species.

The helicopter returned nearly two hours later, however, with no new targets to report — having scouted, among other things, an EU fisheries inspection vessel, a pleasure craft with picnickers, and a vast empty sea near the border between Libya and Egypt.

But the chopper — an MD550E, a civilian version of a helicopter designed for scouting missions in Vietnam — is evidence of the increasing sophistication of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

These are not wild-eyed radicals putting to sea in any old rustbucket. The group’s current campaign, which it calls Blue Rage 2011, uses two ships and a number of small launches, sophisticated radar and communications equipment — and the helicopter, flown by former commercial pilot Chris Aultman.


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Don Melvin

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