Crew of seized fishing vessel to face federal investigation

Becky BohrerAssociated Press
Crew members from the seized high seas drift netter Bangun Perkassa arrive Oct. 3, 2011, in Dutch Harbor. JIM PAULIN / The Associated Press

Federal authorities were planning Monday to question the 22 crew members from a ship accused of illegal fishing.

The Coast Guard seized the Bangun Perkasa on Sept. 7, about 2,600 miles southwest of Kodiak, after receiving a report that the vessel was fishing illegally with a driftnet. Authorities reported finding 30 tons of squid and 30 shark carcasses on board.

The crew was removed Monday, Coast Guard spokeswoman Sara Francis said. She said logistics prevented it happening sooner.

State law prevents ships with rats from entering Alaska waters. The vessel, infested with rats, was brought to about three miles off Dutch Harbor on Sunday.

The plan is for the crew to be turned over to NOAA law enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection and transported to Anchorage for questioning, NOAA Fisheries spokeswoman Julie Speegle said.

The crew members will be held in a "safe, undisclosed location" until the interview process is completed, she said. Translators will aid in the process, which it's hoped won't take more than a few days, she said.

Based on the interviews, a determination would be made on whether to bring charges against any of the individuals, Speegle said. Arrangements would be made for the deportation of those not charged.

The crew initially claimed the ship was from Indonesia but Indonesian officials denied that, Francis said.

The eradication of the rats, with traps and poison, was expected to begin once the crew was off the vessel. Francis said that could take up to a week.

Associated Press