An Alaska-based U.S. Coast Guard cutter on Saturday detained a Chinese-flagged vessel on suspicion of illegal fishing using driftnets, the Coast Guard said in a news release Friday. Custody of the 164-foot fishing vessel, Run Da, has since been transferred to the Chinese government.
After a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft spotted the vessel last week, the crew on the 282-foot cutter Alex Haley responded. Both U.S. Coast Guard and Chinese Coast Guard members aboard the Alex Haley — which has its home port in Kodiak — boarded Run Da, where they found 80 tons of chum salmon and one ton of squid.
The Alex Haley and its 105 crew members are on a North Pacific multinational fisheries enforcement patrol. The crew detained the fishing vessel in international waters about 860 miles east of Hokkaido, Japan, for suspected illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing activity, the Coast Guard said.
The Run Da is suspected of violating a United Nations worldwide driftnet moratorium, the U.S. Coast Guard said. The fishing vessel's captain "admitted to fishing with driftnets up to 5.6 miles in length," the agency said in a statement.
"Reducing the catch of salmon out in the ocean reduces the chance of them coming back to spawn again," said Lt. Brian Dykens, an Alaska spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard. "So it's really about food security and to regulate the fisheries."
On Thursday, about 92 miles west of Japan, the Run Da was turned over to a Chinese Coast Guard vessel to be escorted back to China for prosecution.
The case is the first apprehension of a large-scale, high seas driftnet vessel since 2014, according to the Coast Guard's statement.
The Run Da had 29 Chinese national crew members aboard, Dykens said.