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Fishing vessel suspected of illegal large-scale high-sea drift net fishing. (Photo: USCG, Cutter Munro)

New legislation would let Coast Guard sink pirate vessels

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Friday, November 18, 2011, 23:50 (GMT + 9)

Alaska Senator Mark Begich and Representative Don Young this week introduced a piece of legislation that would allow the US Coast Guard (USCG) to get rid of ships caught illegally fishing in various ways.

Begich and Young worry that auctioning off the usually old and poorly maintained pirate fishing vessels will lead them to end up back in the pirate fishing trade. The last high seas drift netter seized by USCG and sold by the government, the Arctic Wind, is now at an unknown location.

The Senate hopes to ratify a new treaty that will let the US seize pirate fishing vessels and perhaps increase the number of them the government has to dispose of.

The government will take ships that are still salvageable for other purposes and have them scrapped and recycled, put into service for "developing nations for use in fisheries patrol and enforcement activities," or transfer them to other government agencies or nonprofits for research or training.

The Pirate Fishing Vessel Disposal Act of 2011 was drafted in response to last September’s case of the vessel the Bangun Perkasa, which was found with 30 tonnes of illegally caught squid and 30 sharks 2,600 mi southwest of Kodiak, Alaska. The vessel was infested with rats and Begich called for its sinking, Alaska Dispatch reports.

But the boat was salvaged instead and had its rat population exterminated, before being transferred by the Coast Guard to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who would sell it after determining the extent of the illegal fishing. The crew, made up of 22 members of Indonesian, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese nationality, were deported out of Seattle, Washington.

The new legislation would allow USCG to sink any illegal fishing vessels in the future once they have been made safe for the sea environment, moved to at least 50 mi offshore and water at least 1 mi-deep, as part of a live-fire exercise.

“Even though it’s the 21st century, pirates are still a threat to our way of life,” Young said in the press release announcing the legislation. “By illegally fishing, pirates are hurting our economy by stealing our resources, mainly our fish.”

“With this legislation, we are letting these thieves know that their ships will be blown into oblivion if they try and steal our fish,” he stated.

Related article:

- Senate to decide on treaty to stop illegal fishing

By Natalia Real


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