Ocean FAD Articles > US Coast Guard Bust IUU driftnet fishing vessel, then sets it Free.

Coast Guard Cutter Rush escorts UII driftnet fishing vessel Da Cheng, released to China
9 Nov 2012

President John Harder reports to OFAD:

It was brought to OFAD's attention that back in July, 2012, during the North Pacific Albacore Season, US Coast Guard nabbed another IUU driftnet fishing vessel, Da Cheng.

In the report made by the US Coast Guard, IUU driftnet fishing vessel “Da Cheng” was busted, all by himself as a renegade, 850 miles East of Japan.

1st of all this area ,850 miles East of Japan, is in the Northwest Quadrant of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission(WCPFC) Convention Area. The same area that has been exempt to VMS for the past 6 years.
OFAD tried to explain to the WCPFC in previous meetings, that this area should be classified as High Profile, and closely monitored. Not turned off, so to speak.
 
Secondly, the albacore driftnet fishing vessel, Da Cheng, fishing all alone is highly doubtful. She may have been left behind to take the fall.
 
I am an American albacore Troll fisherman, who used to fish these same waters and know this fishery well.
 
      
 
These IUU driftnet fishing vessels used to be my competitors. In order to produce, or survive, in this fishery, you need a squad, or a group. This group can then fill up a freezer ship to transport the tuna to a canning or processing port. A group, or squad could be as many as 10-20+, depending on the capacity of the Reefer Ship and the fishing production. The Group of fishing vessels will disperse once the Carrier ship has finished loading, but they will fish and move together as a group. These IUU driftnet fishing boats do not go to port until the fishing season is over. Average fishing trip for this fishery is 3-4 months.
 
                                          
 
Another tip is that most IUU driftnet fishing vessels are not privately owned. One owner or company will have 10-20 vessels and even a freezer ship, if they are smart. They are company boats, not owned by the captain. You do not operate alone in this albacore “off shore” fishery.
My guess is the freezer ship went to port in Taiwan, his group left for the South Pacific, and driftnet vessel Da Cheng got greedy.
                                                             
 
If the Da Cheng was the only driftnet fishing boat out on the Pacific, and 30-40% of Albacore Tuna caught on the West Coast had driftnet scratches on them, as I have just witnessed, then the Da Cheng would have way more then 30 ton of fish on board. That would also mean our North Pacific Albacore Fish Stocks are in great danger from being extinct. If this IUU vessel cant catch any more fish, there is nothing left.
 
The Coast Guard report goes on to say that the IUU driftnet fishing vessel was operating without a Flag State. That is to say no country would claim this vessel. Therefore this vessel is to be seized by the US Coast Guard. If the vessel was flying a flag, then the US Coast Guard is to contact the Flag State as what to do with the vessel.
 
                                   
 
Handing over a "no flag state" vessel to China, weather the captain and crew are Chinese or not, does not follow proper procedures or protocol to the law. How can you have a joint seizing? Never heard of it.
 
The report further said that Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo has full faith in the Chinese Law Enforcement and that the IUU driftnet fishing vessel Da Cheng will be prosecuted  in the most stringent methods possible. Isn’t that for the US courts to decide? If the US Dep. Of State does not want to prosecute, then who will, China?
 
I am sorry, Adm. Ostebo, but I have been hammered by these IUU driftnet fishing boats and have no faith whatsoever in Chinese authorities. These vessels killed a US Sustainable Albacore Tuna fishery and you trust them?
China is now trying to take over the Yellow Sea to call their very own and you trust them? China is building new boats and subsidizing albacore fishermen to fish wide open, and you trust them? 
Sorry, but you do me no justice.
 
Law should be passed to define and standardize punishment for IUU driftnet violators. OFAD suggests:
1 million dollar fine to the boat owner and or flag state.
IUU vessel  is to be scuttled, and sunk.
Captain goes to jail for mandatory 20 years.
Crew goes to jail for mandatory 10 years.
These vessels are murderers! Not some underage teenagers at a bar!
 
For example, 30 years ago, if a drunk driver was to get pulled over, the police might just give the driver a ride home and tell him to be careful next time. Today, if a drunk driver was to get pulled over, it would cost the drunk $4,000 and possible jail time and suspended license. If a drunk driver was to kill someone, he might spend 20 years in jail with a heavy law suite.
These IUU driftnets kill everything! They are not drunk! They are the best at killing!
Tax payers spend millions of dollars to send out a Coast Guard Cutter to nab these IUU driftnet vessels, only to give them a ride home?
Maybe that’s why they are still out there after 20 years.
 
I’m sorry, but the IUU driftnet fishing vessel Da Cheng should have been used for target practice. Never to fish again.
                                 
 
This is WAR on our Oceans and our own people, not some international friendship hand shake.
 
If we want to be friendly, be friends with the United Nations and join up with European countries only allowing certified MSC sustainable seafood into our country. This will slow down IUU fishing dramatically, as it did for them.
 
As I said before, and NMFS & NOAA knows this well, the best way to combat IUU driftnet fishing is at the dock, or unloading stations.
Fish inspectors, with armed guards if necessary, should be placed at every major unloading port for albacore tuna. 
All albacore freezer transport ships should carry fish inspectors(observers) of a different flag state as the ship.
All inspectors or observers should know what a driftnet marked tuna looks like. They look like this.
 
      
 
30% of the Albacore Tuna, caught off the west coast have driftnet scratches on them.
 
With today’s technology in satellite imagery, VMS and ship traffic monitoring, our US Navy could come down on IUU fishing in a heart beat. This is an insult to our intelligence. US Dep. Of State seems to want to drag this on indefinitely.
 
US Dep. Of State told me “China owns US”. All I see is “Chickens of the Sea”
 
I got news for you US Dep. Of State. My flag is Red White and Blue & proud of it!
 
        
You better check your Flag!
 

John Harder