Coast Guard Cutter Rush escorts the suspected high seas drift net fishing vessel Da Cheng. (Photo: USCG)
Coast Guard hands illegal fishing vessel over to China
Thursday, August 16, 2012, 04:00 (GMT + 9)
The US Coast Guard (USCG) has transferred custody of the fishing vessel Da Cheng seized 850 mi east of Tokyo for illegal large-scale high seas drift net fishing to two patrol vessels from the China Fishery Law Enforcement Command.
The vessel was targeting albacore tuna using 10 mi of large-scale drift nets and had already caught about 30 tonnes; the Coast Guard also found 6 tonnes of shark bodies and fins on the vessel.
High seas drift net fishing is destructive and a form of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing that indiscriminately kills massive amounts of fish and bycatch.
Coast Guard officials said Chinese citizens were operating the vessel, AP reports.
Snares like the ones they were using have been banned internationally since 1992.
“Our Chinese law enforcement partners take the practice of HSDN fishing as seriously as we do. I have full faith that they will utilize the most stringent methods possible to prosecute the vessel and its owners,” said Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo, Commander.
The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Rush sighted the Da Cheng on the high seas of the North Pacific Ocean and boarded the vessel in accordance with the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s (WCPFC) high seas boarding and inspection procedures on 27 July. The USCG then determined the vessel was operating without valid flag state registration.
The boarding team identified three serious WCPFC violations: use of prohibited fishing gear including more than 2.5 mi of high seas drift net, failure to maintain sufficient records of catch and catch-related data in accordance with the WCPFC reporting requirements, and fishing without a license, permit or authorization issued by a sanctioned authority. Further, violations of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships (MARPOL 73/78) were also documented.
“The roles our high endurance and National Security Cutters play at detecting, monitoring, and interdicting IUU fishing vessels highlight their continued value to the American public on the high seas. We, along with our partner nations and law enforcement agencies, are working to protect vital world fish stocks while working to end this despicable and illegal fishing practice,” said Ostebo.
By Natalia Real
Photo Courtesy of FIS Member USCG -U.S. Coast Guard New Mexico-