Indonesia seizes fugitive fishing boat carrying 30km of illegal gillnets

Indonesia has seized a fishing boat carrying 600 illegal gillnets that could stretch up to 30km. The boat had evaded capture in several countries, the Fisheries Ministry said. Indonesia was understood to have acted on an Interpol tip-off. At the time of its capture, the STS-50 had 20 Indonesian and Russian crew, the statement said.

Navy deputy chief of staff Achmad Taufiqoerrochman was quoted in the statement as saying the Indonesian crew lacked travel documents and had been at sea for a long time without pay, indicating they may have been victims of trafficking.

The STS-50 had targeted Antarctic cod species the toothfish, the ministry said.

Gillnetting uses walls of finely meshed nets and has been banned in Antarctic waters since 2006. Australia says that it poses a huge risk to “almost all marine life.”

The officially STS-50 evaded authorities by flying eight different flags at different times, including those of Sierra Leone, Togo, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan, Micronesia and Namibia, the ministry said. Interpol contacted Indonesia last week with a request to investigate the vessel, said fisheries minister.

The vessel had previously been detained by China but had escaped and was later detained in the port of Maputo in Mozambique, before fleeing once again, Pudjiastuti said.

STS-50 had previously operated under the names Sea Breeze, Andrey Dolgov, STD No 2 and Aida, among others, the statement said. The 54-metre, 452-tonne vessel was built in 1985.