Tue, Apr 10, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Indonesia seizes rogue fishing boat

Reuters, JAKARTA

Indonesian Navy sailors hold rifles as they stand next to the detained Russian and Indonesian crewmembers of the STS-50 fishing boat at port in Sabang on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters / Antara Foto/ Ampelsa

Indonesia, acting on a request from Interpol, has seized a fishing boat carrying 600 illegal gillnets that can stretch up to 30km after it evaded capture in several countries, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries said.

The vessel, the STS-50, had targeted Antarctic toothfish, the ministry said, a cod species that plays an important role in the Southern Ocean ecosystem.

Gillnetting, which uses walls of finely meshed nets, has been banned in Antarctic waters since 2006 and is described by Australia as posing a huge risk to “almost all marine life.”

Officially stateless, the STS-50 evaded authorities by flying eight different flags at different times, including those of Sierra Leone, Togo, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan, Micronesia and Namibia, the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

Interpol contacted Indonesia last week with a request to investigate the vessel Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti said in the statement.

“Navy ship Simeuleu conducted a ‘stop, investigate and detain’ operation on Friday and successfully seized the vessel,” Pudjiastuti said.

The vessel had earlier been detained by China, but had escaped and was later detained in the port of Maputo, Mozambique, before fleeing again, Pudjiastuti said.

Prior to its capture off Weh in Aceh Province, the vessel had also operated under several other names including Sea Breeze, Andrey Dolgov, STD No. 2 and Aida, the statement said.

Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows the 54m, 452 tonne vessel was built in 1985.

At the time of its capture, the STS-500 had 20 Indonesian and Russian crew, the statement said.

It was not immediately clear what would happen to the crew.

Indonesian Navy Deputy Chief of Staff Achmad Taufiqoerrochman was quoted in the statement as saying the Indonesian crew lacked travel documents and had been at sea for a long time without pay, indicating they may have been victims of trafficking.

Fishing for Antarctic toothfish is governed under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which forbids gillnet fishing and imposes strict rules on catches.

“We want this to be an example for the world to not compromise with illegal fishing,” Pudjiastuti said.

Indonesia has destroyed hundreds of foreign illegal fishing boats since 2014 in an effort to protect domestic fish stocks and fishermen.

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