Here are incredible photos of a huge fishing trawler, suspected of poaching, as it sinks on the high seas

The Thunder and Bob Barker meet. Credit: Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd Photo: Giacomo Giorigi.

An alleged Patagonian toothfish poaching vessel, the Thunder, sank this morning in the Gulf of Guinea, west of the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe.

Protest ships — Bob Barker and Sam Simon — run by wildlife conservation organisation Sea Shepherd used small boats and liferafts to rescue the crew of 40, including the captain, officers, and deck crew.

Sea Shepherd is an international marine wildlife conservation organisation known for controversial tactics that sometimes attract the ire of governments.

The SMH reports that the Captain of the Thunder clapped and cheered as the ship sank.

The circumstances surrounding the ship’s sinking were deemed suspicious. Here’s what Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, said in a statement following the rescue:

“When my chief engineer boarded the Thunder in the hours leading up to the sinking, he was able to confirm that there were clear signs that the vessel was intentionally scuttled. Usually when a vessel is sinking, the captain will close all hatches so as to maintain buoyancy.

However, on the Thunder, the reverse was done – doors and hatches were tied open and the fish hold was opened. It is an incredibly suspicious situation, to say the least.”

Here’s how it all happened.

The Thunder lists dramatically to the starboard side as it takes on water…

Credit: Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd Photo: Simon Ager.

The Thunder continues to take on water…

Credit: Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd Photo: Simon Ager.

Sea Shepherd ship hangs back from the sinking poaching vessel…

Credit: Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd Photo: Simon Ager.

The Thunder sinks, bow-up…

Credit: Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd Photo: Simon Ager.

The last image of the Thunder before it’s completely submerged…

Credit: Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd Photo: Simon Ager.

Sea Shepherd activists hand over water to the Thunder crew in liferafts…

Credit: Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd Photo: Simon Ager.

A Sea Shepherd small boat tows a convoy of liferafts to safety…

Credit: Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd Photo: Jeff Wirth

And here’s the video of the rescue…

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