Coast Guard seizes boat for illegal fishing

AP News
Posted: Sep 30, 2011 11:49 PM
Coast Guard seizes boat for illegal fishing

A vessel has been seized in the North Pacific for illegal drift net fishing, and was under escort Friday to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, the Coast Guard announced Friday.

The vessel Bangun Perkasa didn't have a valid flag state registration, and Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Sara Francis said it was seized Sept. 7 as a stateless vessel for allegedly violating U.S. laws.

The ship has 22 crew members on board. Francis said crewmen were trying to dump the net when the Coast Guard boarded the ship about 2,600 miles southwest of Kodiak. The Coast Guard retrieved the net, and then found 30 tons of squid and 30 shark carcasses on board, she said.

Officials did not find proper documentation on board, however.

"No license or permits, and no records of their catch," Francis said.

The Coast Guard also discovered rats on board.

Weather permitting, the ship was expected to arrive in Dutch Harbor on Saturday despite an Alaska state law preventing ships with rats from entering state waters.

"We're going to allow the Coast Guard to do so in this case, obviously recognizing the seizure of the vessel is serving a greater good in natural resources protection," said Joe Meehan with the state Department of Fish and Game.

However, the Bangun Perkasa will be kept offshore until the rats are eradicated.

State and federal officials are working on a plan to rid the ship of rats, and it will involve the use of traps and anti-coagulant poison. The process might take up to seven days, he said.

The crew will be off the ship before eradication efforts start, Meehan said.

U.S. officials were tipped off about the illegal ship when a plane from the Fisheries Agency of Japan spotted it Aug. 31, Francis said. The Coast Guard sent a helicopter up off the back of the Cutter Munro, and spotted the ship. The Munro then confirmed it had high seas drift net equipment.

The ship's crew initially claimed Indonesia as their flag state.

"When we contacted Indonesia, they said, `Nope, not ours,'" Francis said. "They became flagless at that point, and that's when we seized them."

The crew members will be processed by Customs and Border Protection and Department of Homeland Security agents, and then returned to their home countries, she said. The nationalities of the crew members were not immediately known.

The Coast Guard will hand the vessel and the catch on board over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration law division for further investigation, including fishing violations. Results of the investigation will be turned over to the U.S. Attorney's office.

It was not immediately known what crew members were fishing.

"We just know what they had on board when we boarded them," Francis said. "Given the catch they had, I would assume they were a squid boat."