MAJURO, 24 FEBRUARY 2020 (MARIANAS VARIETY) — A South Korean-flagged longline fishing vessel was charged Friday with five counts of fishing in Marshall Islands waters without a valid license.

The vessel monitoring system or VMS, an onboard computer system that provides real-time positioning of a fishing vessel by satellite to island fisheries departments, provided the basis for the fisheries department in the Marshall Islands to investigate and charge the vessel, the Oryong 721, with illegal fishing.

The illegal fishing charges have been laid against the vessel owner, Sajo Industries Co. Ltd. of South Korea, the vessel itself, Capt. Kim Thaesik, and chief operator Kang Sungyol.

The vessel is said to have been fishing illegally from 02 – 09 February within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone. According to the coordinates listed in the charges before the High Court, the Oryong 721 was east-northeast of Arno Atoll.

The charges were filed by Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority legal officer Laurence Edwards II, acting in his capacity as a special assistant attorney general. It is the first criminal charge brought in 2020 against a vessel for illegal fishing.

If found guilty, the vessel faces a fine of not less than US$100,000 up to a maximum of US$1 million for each of the five illegal fishing charges.

“I was looking into the vessel tracks of the Korean longliner Oryong No. 721 prior to its arrival into Majuro port,” said MIMRA Fisheries Officer Beau Bigler. “I was using the Vessel Monitoring System or VMS Trackwell to conduct this analysis. I noticed that there were tracks during the week prior to its arrival that looked like fishing sets made inside the Marshall Islands EEZ.”

After the vessel arrived Bigler checked the captain’s logbook, vessel fishing logsheet and GPS. “When a vessel is in transit in the Marshall Islands EEZ, the track should appear as a straight line on the VMS,” Bigler said. “The track in question was not in a straight line (and) indicates that the vessel was carrying out fishing activities.”

He was also able to check the speed of the vessel during the early February period and it showed the vessel was not moving.

Bigler noted that the Oryong 721 does not have a license to fish in Marshall Islands waters this year.

The company has 21 days to respond to the charges after which a hearing will be held in the High Court….PACNEWS