The Coast Guard cutter Rush normally patrols Alaskan waters, but it’s traveled deep into the Pacific Ocean in pursuit of a suspected pirate fishing vessel.
At a Senate hearing in Kodiak on Monday, Coast Guard Commandant Robert Papp said the cutter Rush had intercepted a vessel suspected of high seas drift netting off the coast of Japan. The United Nations moratorium on high seas drift netting is enforced by member states, including the U.S.
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow wouldn’t say how the cutter Rush ended up on the case, citing an ongoing investigation into the driftnet vessel. But he did say that the Coast Guard regularly patrols Pacific waters under an agreement with other Pacific Rim nations.
“We and our partner agencies are always on patrol and enforcing international law to ensure that fish stocks are being maintained and to ensure that if people are out there fishing for them, they are doing so in a lawful manner,” Wadlow says.
At the Senate hearing, Commandant Papp said the intercepted vessel was manned by Chinese citizens. He also said Coast Guard officers found 40 tons of illegal fish on board.
Wadlow wouldn’t confirm that.
“When the Coast Guard cutter Rush initially stopped this vessel for suspicion of engaging in illegal fishing activities — that is when the vessel stopped fishing,” says Wadlow.
Coast Guard officers have boarded the vessel as part of their investigation, but they haven’t been able to take custody of the vessel yet. Wadlow wouldn’t explain why that is. But he says the cutter Rush will stay in the Pacific for now to monitor the ship’s activity visually and using radar.
In the meantime, the agency is coordinating with other countries to decide which one will take the vessel once it’s in custody.
When the Coast Guard intercepted the stateless fishing vessel Bangun Perkasa last year, the U.S. took control of the vessel. They sailed it to Unalaska, where it’s been sitting ever since.