Philippines Fishing Boat Detained, Prevented From Entering Marshall Islands

Expert: 'illegal fishing is widespread in the region because of vast stretches of ocean, few islands, and even fewer patrol vessels and limited enforcement capabilities'

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, February 06, 2017) – A Philippines fishing vessel with 79 crew members was confined and prevented from entry to the Marshall Islands Thursday after arriving in the country without a fishing license or any advance communication with authorities.

The vessel, F/V YMH Live Fish Carrier, arrived without preliminaries.

“It was a surprise to me to hear this vessel arrived,” said fisheries department director Glen Joseph Friday. “Their local agent has an agreement for live reef fishing with us, but there is a process for obtaining a license to fish that has not been adhered to. A fishing license is not guaranteed unless they meet all national and international licensing requirements.”

Police, immigration, customs and health officials reacted quickly to the vessel’s arrived at Port Majuro Thursday afternoon, shutting down access to the dock area and confining the crew — first in a dockside passenger terminal, where immigration documents were checked, and later ordering the entire crew of 79 to re-board and remain on the vessel or in the vicinity of ship by dockside. Police officers are on 24-hour watch at the dock.

“I am denying you entry to the Marshall Islands,” Marshall Islands Immigration Director Damien Jacklick told the captain and crew at dockside after reviewing their legal status and checking if any of the crew needed medical attention. A medical team from Majuro hospital was brought to dockside in an ambulance to provide any medical support required.

“We don’t have any information about this boat,” said Joseph. “This information should have come through the vetting process for a license. There is a process in place.” He said all fishing vessels wanting to fish in Marshall Islands waters must apply for a license before arriving in the country to start fishing operations.

In addition, with the vessel now in violation of multiple national laws regarding entry to the country, Joseph added: “I’m in no position to okay their license when their entry to the country is questionable.”

Mark Young, a senior conservation enforcement officer with the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, after viewing photos of the vessel detained in Majuro, said: “Noting the name and numerous small boats on deck, I believe the target is either beche de mere (sea cucumber) or live small reef fish for the aquarium trade. So surely illegal activity in some Pacific island waters.”

Illegal fishing is widespread in the region because of vast stretches of ocean, few islands, and even fewer patrol vessels and limited enforcement capabilities.

Authorities in neighboring Pacific countries to the Marshall Islands have struggled to police unlicensed “blue boats” originating from Vietnam illegally fishing in many countries. These vessels have been found and confiscated in Palau, Papua New Guinea, and the Federated States of Micronesia, as well as Australia and New Caledonia. The Federated States of Micronesia’s fisheries department said it has arrested nine blue boats with 135 fishermen for illegal entry and fishing activity in their waters since late 2014.

The boat from the Philippines remains tied at the dock in Majuro and under police watch.

Marianas Variety
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