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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 24) – The Taiwanese long-lining vessel FV Yin Chen No 1 has left the Cook Islands with the clear instruction to leave our exclusive economic zone.

The boat departed yesterday after its NZ$250,000 [US$182,000] bill was settled yesterday morning.

The captain of the vessel, Man-Liu Tsai, was convicted in the high court last week on a charge of illegally fishing in Cook Islands waters between 1 and 7 May.

The Yin Chen No 1 had made multiple incursions into the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone during the week-long period, acts that were not deliberate as Tsai believed that he was fishing in an international water pocket between the fisheries waters of the Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Kiribati.

The fine of NZ$200,000 [US$145,000] was made against the master of the vessel with an additional order for the payment of NZ$49,000 [US$145,000] for general costs. An order for $1000 [US$726] court costs was made.

The vessel left with its entire cargo of about 22 tonnes of fish (8.75 tonnes of assorted fish, predominantly albacore tuna was caught in Cook Islands waters).

Ministry of Marine Resources acting director for the policy and legal division Peter Graham says that they are happy with the result in this case.

He says the interception of the vessel by the Te Kukupa patrol boat was well planned and he praised the commander and superintendent Taivero Isamaela and his crew for a great job.

"The boarding and preliminary investigation at sea was well done by the boarding party. Evidence was gathered to support the evidence already at hand, giving the commander grounds to direct the vessel to Rarotonga for further investigations.

"I should add that the master and crew of the Yin Chen No 1 were cooperative throughout the boarding and investigation. A more thorough search of the vessel once in Rarotonga supported our case," he says.

The investigation was supported by two fisheries investigators and a forensic investigating accountant from the Ministry of Fisheries in New Zealand (MFISH).

Graham says that the marine and maritime surveillance division staff picked up quite a few new skills and ideas from the team and their assistance was much appreciated.

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