A vessel of New Zealand's navy intercepted two boats allegedly fishing illegally in the Southern Ocean.
Offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington caught the ships with illegal catches on board, and is now requesting permission to board the vessels, which claim to be flagged to Equatorial Guinea.
NZ’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully reminded that the area is under the protection of the Convention of the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and added that New Zealand conducts regular patrols in the Southern Ocean targeting illegal fishing operations.
Moreover, McCully has requested the government in Equatorial Guinea for permission to board the vessels, if the flag status is verified.
“New Zealand has requested that Interpol issue a Purple Notice for each vessel, which would put alerts out on the vessels and their owners amongst 190 Interpol member countries. We are also working with ports to ensure these vessels cannot offload their illegal catch or profit from their criminal activity," the Minister said.
“The vessels are well-known, repeat offenders and their ownership has in the past been linked to Spanish interests. We have alerted the Spanish Government to what we have discovered," he stated.
HMNZS Wellington has obtained images and a video of the illegal activities, which will be use to support any legal action against the owners and benefactors of the vessels.
Peter Hammarstedt, Captain of Bob Barker vessel, which belongs to Sea Shepherd, congratulated New Zealand Navy on the interception.
Last December, Sea Shepherd caught Nigerian-flagged Thunder, the most disreputable of six toothfish poaching vessels known to be operating in the Southern Ocean.
“While the New Zealand Navy arrests these two poachers, and Sea Shepherd continues to pursue the Thunder, half of the illegal toothfish poaching operators in the Southern Ocean are shut down,” he added.