Rat infestation appears minor on seized fishing vessel

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

The contractor hired to eradicate the rats aboard a seized vessel accused of illegal fishing says the rat problem isn't so bad.

Dan Magone of Magone Marine said Friday morning that six rats had been trapped or poisoned so far and that appeared to be most of them.

"We're just dealing with the smart ones" now, he said.

The Coast Guard announced earlier this week that it had hired Dutch Harbor-based Magone Marine to also make necessary repairs to the Bangun Perkasa to ensure the ship complies with state and federal laws before moving it into Dutch Harbor. State law prevents ships with rats from entering Alaska waters.

The company also was to maintain refrigeration to keep the 30 tons of squid authorities said they found on board from spoiling.

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. The boat was brought to three miles off Dutch Harbor and is expected to be turned over to NOAA Fisheries once the contractor's work is done.

A Coast Guard spokeswoman has said the crew initially claimed the vessel was from Indonesia but that authorities in Indonesia did not claim it.

Federal authorities took the 22 crew members to Anchorage for questioning Monday. A Coast Guard spokesman identified the countries of origin for those on board as China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Indonesia.

Julie Speegle, a spokeswoman for NOAA Fisheries, said the agency's law enforcement wouldn't comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

Todd Dubois, assistant director of NOAA Law Enforcement, said authorities are working with the ship master's country to see if they can help investigate his alleged illegal activities. He didn't identify the country.

Associated Press