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Eco-warrior takes on fishing pirates

Saturday 21 Apr 2012 5:24 p.m.

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By Mike McRoberts

Pete Bethune has revealed his latest mission and declared war on fishing piracy.

The Kiwi self-styled eco-warrior gained international notoriety after serving time in a Japanese prison for illegally boarding a whaling ship two years ago.

His latest venture looks even more dangerous.

The Auckland waterfront launch of Pete Bethune's purpose-built amphibious boat couldn't be further from its intended destination – the seas around West and East Africa, plagued by illegal fishing operations.

Built by Auckland company Sealegs, the impressive craft is fitted with every conceivable gadget from infrared cameras to night vision.

“This allows us to be a lot more effective in coastal waters,” he says. “On the patrols we're undertaking, this will be an amazing asset for us and we will start to deliver on this boat.”

By deliver he means bagging, as he puts it, "the bad guys". Mr Bethune has assembled a team of commandos from former navy seals and other international special forces, all willing to put their lives on the line for marine conservation.

“This team of ex-military guys are taking on a very formidable target – these criminal gangs that fish illegally in Africa – and we're really looking forward to getting over there and getting stuck into them.”

In a week when actress Lucy Lawless has been in court for trying to prevent oil exploration in the Antarctic, Mr Bethune's team are promising even more action.

“There are a lot of people hanging on chains and stuff like that,” says Larry Routledge, formerly of the South African military. “It all has a part to play in the greater scheme of things, but I think the guys that actually go out and do the real deal, we're the guys that are going to start making a difference.”

Just to prove the team are the real deal, they've already completed a mission, which also happens to be the pilot of a reality series about the group, set to play to a worldwide audience through an American cable network.

Mr Bethune says he has no interest in being imprisoned again as he was in Japan after a high seas collision with a whaling ship.

He'll be working alongside under-resourced African governments, who have given his team permission to bear arms to protect their waters..

In the next month the boat will be packed up and shipped out to West Africa.

Pete Bethune and his team will assemble in August. He wouldn't give too many details on his next mission, except to say it involves pirate fishing and undoubtedly more drama.

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