Govt to sink wanted toothfish vessel after Interpol tip-off
The Jakarta Post
The government is set to sink the Viking Fishing Vessel, Interpol's most-wanted Antarctic toothfish poacher, on March 14 in the southern sea off West Java.
The ship, which was caught last week by the Indonesian Navy in Bintan waters in the province of Riau, is the last of six toothfish poaching vessels, collectively known as the 'bandit six'.
Rear Adm. Taufiqurrahman, commander of the Western Region, said the vessel operated in the Pacific Ocean and around Antarctica to catch Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish, a species of cod usually found in cold waters.
'We arrested the vessel after it moored in the middle of the sea due to a broken engine. They did not fight back during the arrest,' Taufiqurrahman told The Jakarta Post.
He added the vessel was seized after the Navy received a notice from Interpol.
'When we received the report of the vessel's whereabouts in Indonesia, we tracked it down because the ship's radar was deliberately turned off. But when we saw it, we instantly recognized it and immediately made a move,' Taufiq said.
He said the vessel would be handed over to the illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing taskforce at the ministry to be destroyed, while the ship's crew members would be charged with violating the Law on Shipping and the Law of Fisheries.
Eleven crew members were onboard during the arrest, comprising five foreigners from Argentina, Peru and Myanmar and six Indonesians.
He said that the Navy would allow Interpol to send its investigators to examine the vessel.
Separately, Col. S. Irawan, commander of the region's main naval base, said that a number of warships would escort the vessel on its way to West Java. The departure is scheduled for March 9.
Agus Subianto, the head of the vessel's engine room, said that he had worked for the vessel through an agency since 2013. He was taken to the vessel by a crew member when it was in Singapore's Outer Port Limit.
'I was paid US$400 per month,' said Agus, adding that while working for the vessel, he only went home to Indonesia twice.
Agus said the ship had the capacity to carry 500 tons of fish. A moment before the arrest, the fish cooler broke down so 50 tons of fish had to be dumped into the sea.
'I didn't know that the fish was protected. I was just doing my job,' said Agus, who hails from Brebes, Central Java.
Toothfish are vulnerable to over-fishing, not only because their long lifespan and slow maturation rate, but also because they tend to stay in one place.
The other bandit six ships were arrested at an earlier time. The vessel named Thunder was arrested in December 2014. The vessel named Kunlun was arrested on Feb. 9 this year. Yongding, Songhua and Perlon were arrested in February 2015 by the New Zealand and Australian Navy.
Indonesia has declared war on illegal fishing by sinking by foreign ships captured in Indonesian waters.
Article 69 of Law No. 45/2009 on Fisheries stipulates that the coast guard can sink foreign vessels operating illegally in the country's territorial waters based on sufficient preliminary evidence.
It has been reported that in the first year of President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's leadership, Indonesia sank 106 foreign boats for fishing illegally in Indonesian waters. The boats were mostly from Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand.
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