China Seizes Pirate Fishing Vessel

Tuesday, August 14 2012

(Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)

Chinese law enforcement has taken custody of a pirate fishing vessel. The Coast Guard cutter Rush intercepted the Da Cheng just over two weeks ago in the North Pacific Ocean near Japan.

The Rush crew found 30 metric tons of albacore tuna and six metric tons of shark and shark fin on board. They'd been taking using high seas drift nets, which are banned by international treaty.

Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow says the Da Cheng crew insisted their 177-foot ship was flagged in Indonesia. That turned out to be a lie.

"Once Indonesia refuted their claim, the vessel was determined stateless," Wadlow says. "That is when we started to work with our other Pacific partners to determine what the final fate of this vessel would be."

Wadlow says the Rush crew stayed with the Da Cheng for two weeks while the Pacific nations hammered out an agreement. The Coast Guard kept up their investigation and found that 26 of the 27 driftnetters are Chinese. One is Taiwanese. The Coast Guard also realized there wasn't enough fuel in the Da Cheng to carry it back to the U.S.

That's when the Coast Guard stepped aside. Two Chinese Fishery Law Enforcement vessels took custody of the Da Cheng about 850 miles east of Tokyo. They're escorting the pirate ship to a Chinese port, where the crew will be prosecuted.

Wadlow says the Da Cheng’s crew was in good health when they were picked up, but it’s not clear if they were working on the vessel voluntarily.

As for the Coast Guard cutter Rush, Wadlow says it's coming off duty. It will dock in Japan so the crew can refuel and take a short leave. After that, the Rush will resume its patrol in the Pacific Ocean.

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