A recent search of the Chinese vessel detained for poaching at Helen Reef has ended with the confiscation of liquor, tobacco, and $20 thousand in US dollars, all of which were allegedly used in attempted bribery of PAN Rangers.
The twenty-eight Chinese fishermen were spotted by PAN Rangers in Hatohobei State two weeks ago, poaching sea cucumbers in Helen Reef, a protected area. The poachers allegedly attempted to bribe the Rangers with the money and goods to dissuade them from contacting law enforcement, which was refused. Marine Law officers aboard the Remeliik II arrested the vessel on December 10 and escorted it to Koror.
A search of the vessel, conducted by Marine Law Enforcement officers, all wearing PPE’s, uncovered the goods which the PAN Rangers had described in their report of the attempted bribery. The liquor, tobacco, and $20 thousand were confiscated as evidence, along with the estimated 500 pounds of illegally-caught sea cucumber.
The search also sought to determine if the poachers were carrying illegal fishing gear, such as gear for bottom trawling, but none was reportedly discovered aboard the vessel.
Last week, President Remengesau voiced the concern that the report of bribery added weight to the incident, and that it is important to determine who provided the money and who is involved.
Although Marine Law has said that it does not yet know which company owns the vessel, at least some of the poachers are believed to be from Hainan province in southern China.
The Chinese nationals have not yet been charged, and are currently undergoing the mandatory fourteen-day quarantine aboard their vessel off of Marine Law Dock in Malakal. The Ministry of State has said that, once the investigation is complete, a letter will be issued to China regarding the detainment of its nationals.