Wednesday, June 4, 2014

International Effort Halts Vessel Fishing Illegally on High Seas

The US Coast Guard has transferred custody of the 191-foot fishing vessel Yin Yuan, seized for high seas drift net fishing in the North Pacific Ocean, to the China coast guard vessel 2102 in the East China Sea.

The announcement on June 3 came from the Coast Guard 17th District in Juneau, Alaska, in support of Operation North Pacific Guard. That’s the US Coast Guard’s component of a multi-lateral fisheries law enforcement operation designed to detect and deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activity, including large-scale drift-net fishing on the high seas.

Crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau who boarded the Yin Yuan, which was seized 625 miles east of Tokyo, Japan, in the North Pacific, found approximately a half ton of salmon on board.

The Honolulu-based Morgenthau, a 378-foot high endurance cutter used in search and rescue, as well as law enforcement missions.

The Coast Guard said a Canadian CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft with a Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans Enforcement official on board, operating under the control of the US Coast Guard 17th District, first sighted the Yin Yuan on the high seas of the North Pacific Ocean.

The Canadian forces observed that the Yin Yuan was engaged in large-scale high seas drift net fishing and the sighting information was passed to the crew of the Morgenthau, which was patrolling in support of Operation North Pacific Guard.

“This seizure is a direct result of the teamwork between the Coast Guard and our Chinese, Japanese and Canadian law enforcement partners,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander, Coast Guard 17th District.

The Morgenthau intercepted and boarded the vessel with two law enforcement officials from the China Coast Guard’s Fisheries Law Enforcement Command and interviewed the master, after the vessel’s master made a claim of Chinese registry.

The master, who was not identified, admitted to having 3.3 kilometers of nets onboard, and stated that he had thrown the drift nets and other equipment overboard prior to being intercepted by the Morgenthau crew.

Along with discovery of the IUU salmon, the Morgenthau crew identified three suspected fisheries violations. These included use of prohibited fishing gear of more than 3.3 kilometers of high seas drift net, failure to maintain sufficient records of catch and catch-related data, and fishing without a license, permit or authorization issued by a sanctioned authority.

Additionally, violations of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships were documented.

The United States, Canada and China actively participate in international efforts to deter the practice of large-scale high seas drift net fishing, as encouraged by a 1992 United Nations moratorium.

Since 1994, the Coast Guard and NOAA Fisheries Service have annually hosted law enforcement officers from the China Fishery Law Enforcement Command onboard Coast Guard cutters patrolling in the North Pacific Ocean.

The Coast Guard also participates in closely coordinated fisheries enforcement patrols with the member nations of the North Pacific Anadromous Fisheries Commission and North Pacific Coast Guard Forum.

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