SEA SHEPHERD is still involved in pursuit of suspected smuggling vessels in the region, the organisation's Director-Asia told Phuketwan on Thursday in a message published in full below.
PHUKET: The blacklisted poaching vessel, Kunlun - wanted in Australia and New Zealand - has been detained off Phuket on fisheries-related violations, Marine Police confirmed today.
''We are investigating claims that the captain and crew of the vessel were engaged in the illegal sale of highly prized rare fish,'' Phuket Marine Police commander Colonel Phanya Chaichana told Phuketwan.
''The boat has no fishing nets and is not a trawler.''
The captain and crew are still on board the Indonesian-registered Kunlun, which is anchored off Tapaonoi island, near Phuket, while officials check documentation and the vessel's movements.
The patrol ship HMNZS Wellington was prevented from sending boarding parties on to two poaching ships earlier this month after their skippers defied orders to stop.
It's understood the Kunlun has the capacity to store fish alive on board. Fish were due to be taken to Songkhla, in southern Thailand, then to Vietnam.
The vessel's arrest comes just over two months after the Kunlun was caught by the New Zealand Navy engaged in illegal fishing in Australian waters, and just over a month after it was intercepted by the Sea Shepherd ship, Sam Simon, in possession of banned fishing equipment, again in Australian waters.
Colonel Phanya said the ship had been apprehended following a request from Australia.
The poaching vessel has changed names at least 10 times to avoid prosecution, reports the online site maritime-executive.com.
In January, the Kunlun was issued with an Interpol Purple Notice for illegally fishing for toothfish inside an area regulated by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
It's the second time within days that the vessel has made news on Phuket.
Early on Sunday morning a Spanish crewman was rescued from the ship and taken to Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket City with cuts that indicated a case of self-harm and possible attempted suicide.
It's not clear whether his self-inflicted injuries had anything to do with the apprehension of the vessel.
On February 2, the Sam Simon intercepted the Kunlun along with another poaching vessel, the Yongding, in Australian waters. The Sam Simon then chased the poaching vessel out of its hunting grounds in the Southern Ocean.
Fishing for Patagonian toothfish - better known as Chilean Seabass in the smart restaurants where it is sold - is strictly regulated to protect fragile stocks.
Toothfish can fetch up to $150 a kilogram in the US and Japan, where their buttery fillets are highly prized by restaurants. Harvesting them is subject to strict international regulations.
WE HAVE been in pursuit of another vessel, the purple listed 'Thunder' and are still in pursuit. We encountered the Kunlun for a few days and documented (and had a few close shaves). There is a lot going on in the background that we do not publish as we do not want to jeopardize an Interpol investigation against these IUU boats. This season we have 2 out of the 6 wanted vessels, with documentation of 2 more that will need to come to port sometime. Its been a good year so far.
Gary Stokes, Director - Asia, Sea Shepherd