Korean-owned fishing boat boarded in drift net investigation

Posted: Tuesday, May 09, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- A 200-foot vessel owned by a South Korean company was stopped and boarded by the Coast Guard after 19 days of surveillance for possible illegal high seas drift net fishing.

About a ton of processed salmon was found aboard the Arctic Wind, registered in San Lorenzo, Honduras, and investigators were trying to determine how and where the fish were caught, a Coast Guard spokesman said early Tuesday.

Disposition of the vessel and crew, consisting of 25 Russian nationals, remained undetermined pending the outcome of the probe, the spokesman said.

Fishing for salmon on the high seas is illegal because the fish are considered to belong to the country in the waters where they return to spawn.

A general moratorium on drift nets was imposed in 1992 by the United Nations. The devices are blamed for killing seals, dolphins, whales, sharks, turtles, diving birds and other sea creatures along with the fish they're used to catch.

The Arctic Wind, owned by Sirous Fish Co. of Pusan, South Korea, was spotted April 20 from a Coast Guard C-130 transport plane on drift net patrol 621 miles south of Adak in the mid-Aleutians.

The pilot and crew members reported that the ship had as much as four miles of drift net in the water, and the Coast Guard cutter Sherman, based at Alameda, Calif., was dispatched in pursuit.

A Coast Guard news release said the Arctic Wind made a number of evasive maneuvers, at one point heading directly for the cutter, and on another occasion accelerated from 4 knots to 15 knots after the vessel's crew noticed a helicopter from the Sherman.

After maintaining radio silence, the crew of the fishing boat contacted the Sherman and claimed to be operating a Russian-flagged vessel.

After several more calls, the fishing boat was boarded by an enforcement team from the Sherman about 4 p.m. Monday.

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