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Multi-nation effort collars driftnetters

Six tons of illegally caught coho salmon were discovered on board the Russian-registered Lobana by the U.S. Coast Guard   

May 6, 1999
Web posted at: 11:45 AM EDT

Four vessels were discovered fishing illegally for salmon using driftnets off of the coast of Alaska recently during a three-week joint Canada, United States, Russia and China surveillance operation.

The Russian-registered vessel Astafyevo and the IT1326 were both pursued by a Russian patrol vessel after being sighted by the Canadian surveillance crew aboard one of two Canadian CP-140 Aurora aircraft used in the operation.

A third vessel, which originally claimed to be the Florida, a Philippine-registered vessel, was later identified as the Lobana registered in Russia. Six tons of coho salmon were discovered on board the Lobana by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Lobana was turned over to a Russian patrol on April 21 to be taken to a Russian port for prosecution.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Rush chased down the vessel Ying-Fa on April 24 after it was spotted by the Canadian surveillance team 440 miles southwest of Attu Island on April 20. A boarding team made up of U.S. Coast Guard officials and a Chinese fisheries official found the Ying-Fa was carrying a total catch of 6.2 tons of coho, chinook and pink salmon -- all caught illegally with driftnets. Further inspection of the vessel revealed two nets that were about 8 miles long each.

The vessel master claimed that the Ying-Fa's registry was Chinese, according to U.S. Coast Guard reports. However, the Agricultural Department of the People's Republic of China refuted that claim, according to Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The vessel master reported that he planned to fish until he had accumulated 40 to 50 tons of fish. This would amount to more than a week's illegal fishing activity. The stateless vessel was escorted to Adak Alaska by the U.S. Coast Guard where the vessel, catch and gear were seized and the crew detained for further investigation by U.S. authorities.

On Monday, a helicopter from the Rush observed the 200-foot Tayufun-4 crew members hauling in nets containing salmon and a porpoise about 450 miles southwest of Attu Island. Coast Guard officials are now aboard the vessel investigating claims by its master that it had been hauling in nets that belong to other vessels. The Russian patrol vessel Barrs is scheduled to rendezvous with the Rush and Tayfun-4 later this week.

Large-scale driftnet fishing beyond the exclusive economic zone of any nation is prohibited under a 1991 resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. Canada, U.S., Japan and Russia are signatories to the Convention for the Conservation of Anadromous Stocks in the North Pacific Ocean.

Those countries are coordinating their enforcement activities to stop illegal salmon fishing on the high seas of the North Pacific. The Peoples Republic of China also participates through a memorandum of understanding with the United States.

Elsewhere on the high seas

The Norwegian whaling season opened Monday with a fleet of 36 boats set to hunt a 'self awarded' quota of 753 minke whales, the highest number since a moratorium on commercial whaling went into force in 1986.

Norway resumed commercial whaling in defiance of the moratorium in 1993 and since then has killed a total of 2,238 minkes in the Barents Sea, Norwegian Sea and North Sea. The whaling takes place under a formal objection that Norway lodged to the International Whaling Commission's moratorium in 1982.

"Norway's whaling may be allowed by the letter of the law, but it is certainly flouting the wishes of the International Whaling Commission," said Cassandra Phillips, World Wild Fund for Nature coordinator for whales. "The Commission has passed resolutions every year urging Norway to stop this whaling immediately, but they are routinely rebuffed".

The Japanese fleet returned about a week ago with 389 minke whales, which were killed in the Southern Ocean whale Sanctuary.

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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U.S. Coast Guard 17th District
Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Earthtrusts DriftNetwork Program
The enforcement problem
Driftnets: Walls of death
International Whaling Commission
IWC watching
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