Last week’s Operation Rai Balang caught an illegal purse seiner in Palau’s waters with two smaller boats. The ship, with 18 crew members and two small boats, was released after fishing gears were removed and disabled.

The ship was dragging a purse seine net behind it, escorted by two smaller boats, reported Attorney General Ernestine Rengiil, who is also serving in a capacity of the Minister of Justice under Executive Order No. 444.

The ship was stopped and boarded by Palau Marine Law Enforcement officers. There were no fish on board but the net was in the water. The net was reeled in and the winch used to reel in or release the net was disabled to ensure that the ship would not continue fishing in Palau’s waters before it was released.

“This will be the last time that such a boat is released,” explained AG Rengiil. “Next time, it will be brought in and prosecuted.”

Additional reasoning for letting the illegal ship go was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. The crew members were from the Philippines, which still has active cases.

Operation Rai Balang is an annual maritime surveillance and control operation over the North Pacific region to stop illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The program involves the countries with jurisdictions in the North Pacific, supported by aerial and naval resources of the United States, Australia and other partner countries, led by Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

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