Like characters in an adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, the research crew aboard Oceana’s research catamaran, the Ranger, found themselves in peril amidst the clutches of a seven-ship band of angry fishermen wielding hooks.

The Ranger, at sea now for two weeks photographing the use of illegal driftnets in international waters off of France, was sailing peacefully when seven ships surrounded it, demanding cameras and other incriminating evidence. The angry commercial fishermen immobilized the Ranger’s propellers with rope, and hurled fish (and four-letter words) at the crew.

Luckily, the hour-long incident ended with only the Ranger crew’s ears injured, as the ships high-tailed it out of there when the French maritime authorities came to the rescue — via heliocopter.

The commercial fishermen want the photos for good reason: they document the senseless bycatch and killing of marine life, and expose the use of illegal nets. Similar images from Italy during last year’s expedition led to new legislation and a crackdown on the illegal practice. Our very own Xavier Pastor (leader of our Ranger crew and head of European office) put it best:

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If anyone still had any doubt about the illegality of the French driftnets, the brutal attempts by the fishermen to try to avoid keeping information about their illegal driftnetting, at all costs, from the general public and the authorities is plain to see.

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