Palau’s marine law enforcers apprehended two Vietnamese “blue boats” fishing vessels with 29 crewmembers suspected of illegal fishing in Palau waters, April 16.
Maritime Surveillance Advisor – Palau, LCDR Ben Fennell said that the capture of the blue boats is part of Operation Rai Balang, a regional fisheries surveillance undertaking.
Palau Marine law enforcers detain 29 crewmembers of the "Blue Boats" captured during the regional marine surveillance. Photo by Ongerung Kambes Kesolei
The blue boats were apprehended near Helen’s Reef located at the southern part of Palau’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The boats were escorted back to Koror by Remeliik and arrived on April 22.
Fennell said this is the first time that Palau utilized a locally –owned aircraft, Pacific Mission Aviation (PMA) as air support to police the island nation's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
He added that although Remeliik only apprehended two Vietnamese fishing vessels, aerial surveillance spotted at least two Filipino fishing vessels and three more Vietnamese boats suspected of encroaching in Palau’s waters.
“There is more illegal fishing in the EEZ than one patrol boat can handle,” Fennell said in an interview.
The aerial surveillance went as far as 40 miles from the Indonesian border.
Thomas Tutii, Division of Marine Law Enforcement Chief said that the case of the apprehended vessels and its crewmembers has been forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office.
He said that Vietnamese boats were caught with sea cucumbers on board.
Palau's PSS Remeliik escorts to Koror two Vietnamese vessels suspected of poaching in Helen Reef. Photo by Ongerung Kambes Kesolei