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Palau Marine Law Seizes Suspected Illegal ‘Mother Ship’

Palau’s PSS Remeliik marine law officers seized a suspected Philippine illegal fishing vessel that is believed to be “a mother ship.”

Acting Attorney General Evan Robbins told Pacific Note that on Nov. 16, the patrol boat went to conduct its regular sea patrol from east to south of Palau’s exclusive economic zone. The vessel Gene No.8, was found 45 miles North West of Helen Reef two days later.

Suspected illegal "mother ship" escorted back to the Marine Law in Koror for further investigation. Photo by Richard W. Brooks

“Upon approaching the very same vessel, it was noticed to be moored to a fishing aggregation device numbered 822. At around 0245 hours on the same day, the very same contact was boarded and inspected. There was no valid Palau fishing permit on board,” according to preliminary investigation.

Upon inspection, the marine law officers found at least 30 tons of fish onboard. The ship’s master was also unable to produce a catch log. The fish on board were tuna, rainbow runners and other small fish named kolongo.

The ship’s master also claimed the catch onboard were caught in international waters.

The five Filipino crewmembers were detained at the marine law office and some of the catch were sold and some were given away, according to AAG Robbins.

Robbins said the boat owner has retained a lawyer in Palau to resolve the case.

“We are in the early stages of evaluating the case and negotiating with the owner on the path forward for resolution,” Robbins said.

Palau illegal fishing law imposes a minimum fine of $500,000.

Meanwhile, according to one marine law officer, the role of vessel is to collect fish from purse seiners and not long-liners. The vessel can also potentially hold 120 tons of fish.

Remeliik is part of the Australian funded pacific patrol boat program. By 2019 , Australia will replace the Remeliik with a brand new, larger and more capable patrol boat under the Pacific Maritime Security Programme.

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