PHUKET: A fine of 51,000 baht was levied against the alleged illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) vessels that successfully fled the New Zealand and Australian navies with its cargo of Atlantic toothfish before being seized in Phuket earlier this year (story here).
“Last month, the Customs Department in Bangkok fined the captain and South Service Co Ltd, which managed the cargo, for falsely reporting the Atlantic toothfish as grouper, as well as falsely reporting the value of the fish,” confirmed Phuket Customs Chief Prasongsak Boonma.
The Peruvian captain, Jose Alberto Zavaleta Salas, reported the cargo as 182 tonnes of grouper, valued at about 15 million baht. However, experts have confirmed that the ship had in fact offloaded 182 tonnes of Antarctic toothfish, valued at about 179mn baht – a difference of 164mn baht (story here).
“The fine was only the Customs Department part of the process. The next step is for the Marine Office to carry out its investigation concerning the ship’s registration,” Mr Prasongsak said. “The ship will remain in government custody until the investigation has been concluded.”
Since 2008, the boat, which recently changed its name from Kunlun to Taishan, has in fact changed its name at least 10 times, according to a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society report.
“There is evidence against the Kunlun of multiple crimes, including fishing without a permit, using banned gill nets in a controlled fishery zone, changing flags and names to deliberately avoid detection and operating under shell companies as fly-by-night operators to exploit international loopholes,” explained Capt Siddharth Chakravarty of the Sea Shepherd ship Sam Simon told the Phuket Gazette earlier this year.
The Sam Simon is taking part in the Sea Shepherd 2014 Operation Icefish, a campaign to stop the illegal fishing of Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish in Antarctic waters.
“Whether or not the ship is in violation of Thai law as an IUU is to be determined by the government’s IUU standing committee,” said Charoen Chamniklang of the Royal Thai Customs Investigation and Suppression Bureau (ISB).
“We have no idea how long it will take, but the ship will remain here until the investigation no longer requires it to be.”
— Chutharat Plerin
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