Catch­ing Thun­der

The Story of the World’s Long­est Sea Chase

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews - BY RACHEL JAGARESKI

Eskil Eng­dal, Kjetil Saeter, Diane Oat­ley (Trans­la­tor) ZED Books (MARCH) Soft­cover $21.95 (400pp), 978-1-78699-087-7

Nor­we­gian jour­nal­ists Eskil Eng­dal and Kjetil Saeter de­liver a true story that reads like a spy novel, pep­pered with scary or­ga­nized crime vil­lains, charis­matic en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists and In­ter­pol agents, and enough tid­bits about sail­ing treach­er­ous seas, com­mer­cial fish­ing, and en­dan­gered species to sat­isfy the most ded­i­cated nau­ti­cal ad­ven­ture fan.

The Thun­der of the ti­tle was a no­to­ri­ous il­le­gal fac­tory fish­ing ves­sel that poached lu­cra­tive catches of tooth­fish, oth­er­wise known as Chilean sea bass, for years in the South­ern Ocean. The non­profit Sea Shep­herd Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety took on the charge of round­ing up Thun­der and other il­le­gal fish­ing boats in their tar­geted “Ban­dit 6” af­ter their ef­forts to in­ter­rupt Ja­panese whal­ing in Antarc­tic wa­ters proved suc­cess­ful.

Equipped with a nim­ble ship loaded with ex­cel­lent radar and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy, Sea Shep­herd cap­tain Peter Ham­marst­edt and his crew were for­tu­nate to lo­cate Thun­der early in their De­cem­ber 2014 pa­trol mis­sion while their food and fuel re­serves were high. The au­thors smartly punc­tu­ate the sub­se­quent 111-day ac­count of the sea chase with less ac­tion-filled but no less in­trigu­ing asides about how il­le­gal fish­ing ships are sur­rep­ti­tiously reg­is­tered and bankrolled, their in­equitable treat­ment of fish­ing crews, prob­lems with in­ter­na­tional fish­ing and marine sanc­tu­ary reg­u­la­tions and en­force­ment, and money laun­der­ing and cor­rup­tion in var­i­ous Asian, African, and Euro­pean ports of call.

The book suf­fers from oc­ca­sional bouts of awk­ward di­a­logue and trans­la­tions, as well as from Sea Shep­herd hero wor­ship, but de­spite these choppy wa­ters, the nar­ra­tive is ex­cit­ing and il­lu­mi­nat­ing. This is an all too rare pos­i­tive, sat­is­fy­ing story about how the forces of good won out over crim­i­nals and other self-in­ter­ested bad­dies, and how they helped to pro­tect our en­vi­ron­ment.

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