Earlier this month, the Coast Guard seized the Indonesian fishing vessel Bangun Perkasa and her crew for the suspected use of drift nets to fish the North Pacific Ocean.
Renegade large-scale high-seas drift net fishing indiscriminately kills massive amounts of fish and other marine life such as whales and turtles. The practice of using enormous nets suspended for miles in open water is a significant threat to ocean ecosystems and to the food and economic security of nations relying on fishery resources.
Acting on vessel sighting information from a Fisheries Agency of Japan airplane, Coast Guard Cutter Munro launched its helicopter and crew who located the Bangun Perkasa with 22 fishermen aboard approximately 2,600 miles southwest of Kodiak, Alaska.
The vessels’ crew reportedly abandoned their fishing nets and attempted to leave the area once they spotted the helicopter flying above them. The vessel was found to be operating without valid flag state registration and was seized as a stateless vessel for violations of U.S. law.
Upon boarding the vessel, a Munro team found more than 10 miles of drift net, 30 tons of squid and approximately 30 shark carcasses aboard. They retrieved the abandoned net and began the lengthy escort toward Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
“The seizure of the Bangun Perkasa highlights how international cooperation along with U.S. Coast Guard high endurance cutters can detect, monitor, and interdict high-seas drift net fishing vessels,” said Capt. Gregory Sanial, 17th Coast Guard District chief of enforcement. “This method of fishing is illegal, despicable and shows complete disregard for the world’s ecosystem, and the joint effort of the many Pacific nations shows our dedication to ending this barbaric practice, enforcing maritime law and being good stewards of the environment.”
Munro subsequently turned over escort duties to Coast Guard Cutter Midgett, which is bringing the Bangun Perkasa to Dutch Harbor. The case will be turned over to the Alaska Region of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement for the investigation.
“We will conduct a thorough investigation of this case and continue our work to prevent high-seas drift net fishing, which is globally recognized as an indiscriminate fishing practice that kills marine mammals, sea birds, sharks and fish,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA’s assistant administrator for fisheries. “NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement in Alaska continues to combat this illegal fishing with the help of Canada, Russia, Japan, China and Korea, our international partners in the North Pacific.”
The crew of the Munro also found a “severe infestation” of rats living with the 22 crew, Coast Guard spokeswoman Sara Francis told msnbc.com.
“As a precaution the vessel will be held offshore of Dutch Harbor” for up to a week “while the rat population aboard the vessel is eradicated,” Francis adds. “Once the rats are dealt with, the vessel will be brought into port.”
This article was originally posted to the CG Compass blog by LT Connie Braesch, USCG