Coast Guard transfers custody of Bangun Perkasa to NOAA

Coast Guard District 17 NewsJUNEAU, Alaska — The Coast Guard 17th District transferred custody of the Bangun Perkasa, a 140-foot fishing vessel seized for illegal high seas drift net fishing 2,600 miles southwest of Kodiak, to the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement Alaska Saturday.

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement will survey the Bangun Perkasa to determine the value of the vessel and its catch, which includes 30 tons of squid and 30 sharks. NOAA will then coordinate the sale of the catch and the U.S. government will retain the proceeds of the sale.

Federal law provides a process where the owner is afforded a reasonable amount of time to come forward and claim the vessel. If the owner of the vessel is not identified within the statutory allotted time, the Bangun Perkasa will be forfeited and sold.

Once NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement completes its investigation, they will forward their findings to the Department of Justice for potential prosecution for numerous violations of U.S. law.

The case started on Aug. 30, when Japanese authorities observed the Bangun Perkasa using drift nets on the high seas. The Japanese authorities contacted the Coast Guard to report the sightings. On Sept 7, the Coast Guard Cutter Munro arrived on scene and observed the vessel continuing to fish using an illegal drift net exceeding three miles in length.

A Coast Guard boarding team subsequently boarded the vessel where they discovered more than 10 miles of illegal drift nets on board. Through international coordination in an effort to determine the vessel’s registry, the Bangun Perkasa was determined to be a stateless vessel. The Coast Guard subsequently cited the vessel for numerous violations of U.S. law, including the practice of illegal, unregistered and unregulated fishing and seized the vessel.

After seizing the Bangun Perkasa, the vessel was escorted to a location in the vicinity of Dutch Harbor by a coordinated effort involving the crews of the cutters Munro, Midgett and Alex Haley. During the vessel’s escort the Coast Guard boarding teams discovered the presence of rats aboard the vessel.

The Coast Guard continued its escort until arriving in the vicinity of Dutch Harbor where the crew of the vessel was taken into custody by customs and immigration officials and returned to their home of record. After the crew was removed a private contractor was hired to perform rat remediation measures to ensure the vessel satisfied U.S. requirements prohibiting the introduction of rats into U.S. ports. The contractors also maintained the basic upkeep of the vessel and performed repairs to the ship to ensure it satisfied state and federal environmental regulations.

“Environmental stewardship is something the Coast Guard takes very seriously and we wanted to ensure that environmental risks associated with the Bangun Perkasa were identified and addressed before it was allowed into Dutch Harbor,” said Capt. Craig Lloyd, chief of response for the 17th Coast Guard District.

“We worked extensively with more than 20 of our fellow local, state, federal and tribal governments and partner agencies to identify environmental threats aboard the vessel and ensure solutions were found,” said Lloyd. “Although exceptionally challenging due to the remote location, the condition of the vessel, and unknown infestation, the cooperative and transparent approach to ensure strict compliance with both state and federal laws has been highly successful.”

“High seas drift nets are an indiscriminate, environmentally harmful way to harvest the valuable resources of our world oceans. The multi-national, multi-agency coordination that resulted in getting the Bangun Perkasa off the high seas has been well worth the efforts that are continuing as this case is resolved,” said Lloyd.

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