THREE Vietnamese ‘Blue Boats’ (fishing boats) have been arrested following a joint operation involving police and fisheries officers over the weekend for alleged illegal fishing within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
A statement from Police Media Unit yesterday said: “Police and fisheries officers have arrested three Vietnamese ‘blue boats’ (fishing boats) over the weekend for alleged illegal fishing within Solomon Islands____ waters.”
It was reported a total of 43 crew members have been caught by Police in three boats late Sunday evening – 26th March 2017 at the Indispensable Reef 50 kilometers south of Rennell Island,Renbel Province.
The statement added they are now being held for further questioning.
Police jumped into action after receiving report from coastal communities in Makira in collaboration with other intelligence received by RSIPF and Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
Two Royal Solomon Island Police Force (RSIPF) Patrol Boats, RSIPV Auki and RSIPV Lata were involved in the successful operation.
It was alleged that there were four vessels spotted at the indispensable Reef by Police Patrols. However, only three boats were apprehended.
“The fourth boat was unable to be apprehended due to poor visibility and distance,” the statement said.
The three boats along within the crews are currently being escorted back to Honiara where further investigations will be carried out.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources yesterday declined to issue any information about the operation and arrests.
Francis Pituvaka, the Ministry’s Communication Officer said: “all queries relating to the ‘Blue Boat’ issue will only be dealt with by the Police Media Unit. That is the directive I receive today (yesterday).”
Its unclear whether the boats were conducting fishing activities or were harvesting sea cucumber.
The arrest came following citing of similar boats twice off the coast of Anuta Island of Temotu province.
A native of Anuta last week said they were curious about these ‘blue boats’ as they used to anchor outside a nearby reef and fish.
He said people of Anuta are concerned and felt insecure of these illegal fishing boats because they are exploiting their marine resources.
Recently New Caledonia had also nabbed a number of these ‘Blue Boats’ for illegal fishing within their territory.
Early this month about 50 foreigners mainly from Vietnam have been convicted by the Bomana District Court in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and fined K150,000 each for the two captains and K20,000 for the crews and in default imprisonment four years each with hard labour for illegally harvesting of sea cucumber inPapua New Guinea.
The two blueboats entered PNG especially in Milne Bay Province illegally toward the end of last year and engaged in harvesting of sea cucumber (Beche-De-Mer) fisheries.
The PNG Government through the National Fisheries Authority has banned the selling and harvesting of sea cucumber as part of conservation and management of sea cucumber fisheries.