Chinese, NOAA Dismantle Pirate Fishing Vessels

A pirate fishing vessel intercepted by the Coast Guard in August has been cut up. Captain Phillip Thorne is the head of enforcement for Alaska. He says the Chinese government has disposed of the 177-foot Da Cheng.

“They sold the vessel for scrap, and the vessel was destroyed. The government sold the vessel for scrap. They were not able to prosecute the crew under Chinese law. But they seized the catch and they sold the catch for auction and the proceeds went to the government.”

The cutter Rush intercepted the Da Cheng driftnetting on the high seas near Japan. The practice is banned by U.N. moratorium because of its devastating effects on marine ecosystems. The Rush turned over the vessel to Chinese enforcement after discovering that all the crewmembers aboard the unflagged vessel were Chinese.

Meanwhile, a year and a half after being escorted into Unalaska, the Bangun Perkasa is still tied up at the dock. But perhaps not for much longer. Bidding on the contract for dismantling and disposing of the high seas driftnetter closed last week. Four companies submitted proposals, but there’s no clear timeline for when the contract will be awarded.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesperson Lesli Bales-Sherrod says in an email that it’s been a “lengthy and complicated” process, but that “disposing of this vessel properly demonstrates our commitment to preventing IUU [illegal] fishing by guaranteeing that this vessel will never fish again.”

The Coast Guard chased down the Bangun Perkasa while it was driftnetting in the North Pacific in October 2011. Bales-Sherrod says NOAA has been paying roughly $30,000 a month for moorage, security, and project management associated with seizure of the vessel. That amounts to approximately half a million dollars since 2011.

Pirate fishing is on the rise worldwide, and is estimated to cost legal fishermen billions of dollars a year in lost revenue.

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