"Fishing the FSM for Nearly Six Months Yields Only Six Fish? Maybe Not"

May 02, 2007

The Kaselehlie Press

On April 14 in FSM waters near Yap but outside of the 12 mile zone, FSM National Police officers from the FSS Micronesia boarded the Jinn Feng Tsair 1, a longliner steaming under Taiwanese flag with a valid license to fish FSM waters issued on January 22, 2007 and valid for a year. According to the vessels log book the longliner had been fishing FSM waters since January 31, 2007 with their crew of 2 Taiwanese and 9 Indonesian nationals.

Officers examined the catch as compared with the logbook and found serious discrepancies there. In the ships refrigerated compartments they found only 6 tuna. The logbook showed they had caught 100 fish. When the Captain of the vessel was confronted on the discrepancy he admitted that they had transshipped 42 Albacore, 104 Big Eye Tuna, 84 Marlins, 29 swordfish, some sharks and other fish. He told the officers they had a problem with their refrigeration units. Upon examination the officers found all units to be in working condition.

The FSS Micronesia was on its way to another operation in Palau and according to Chief Pius Chotailug, was late for their assignment. The passports of all crew members were confiscated. The Captain of the Jinn Feng Tsair 1 was asked to sign a document agreeing to steam to the harbor in Yap unaccompanied and to report to law enforcement officers there.

The FSS Micronesia continued on to its assigned patrol area. The Jinn Feng Tsair 1 was monitored by the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) which is required to be operational at all times while in FSM waters and is a condition of the license under which they operate. When the vessel passed Yap, the PSS President H.I. Remliik was diverted from the joint operation they were participating in to intercept the Taiwanese Vessel. The vessel was lost from view by the monitors when they steamed out of FSM waters. US Navy planes were sent to the area to look for the vessel but no trace was found.

The fines for the violation of transshipping fish on the high seas and other charges resulting from what the Captain's boarding report called a routine boarding would be in the millions of dollars. The captain and crew of the Jing Feng Tsair 1 are still at large.

FSM National Police Chief Chotailug said that since the FSM has diplomatic relations with China and not with Taiwan the problem of finding the Captain and crew is more difficult but not impossible. He said, "I don't know how people without passports returning from the high seas without a passport will be able to enter anywhere undetected…there are ways," he said with a big, confident smile.