Uruguay is considering requesting Australia the liberation of the longliner Viarsa 1 and its crew currently detained and waiting trial in Freemantle for allegedly poaching in Australian waters.
The Director of Uruguayan Fisheries Captain Yamandú Flangini anticipated this Thursday in Montevideo that if it's confirmed that the trial of the "Viarsa 1" is postponed for December 15, as seems apparent, Uruguay will then formally make the request to Canberra.
"We believe we have more evidence to begin legal actions against the "Viarsa 1" for having repeatedly infringed Uruguayan fisheries legislation", said Captain Flangini.
The Uruguayan flagged "Viarsa 1" was surprised supposedly illegally fishing for Patagonian toothfish in Australian waters and had to be chased for three weeks and four thousand miles before she was arrested in the high seas in a combined operation of Australian, South African and Falklands' fisheries patrols.
Mr. Flangini argued that the trial in Australia had already been postponed to November 15, ("Viarsa 1" and crew were escorted under arrest into Freemantle last October 3), "to avoid any influence from the CCAMLAR (Convention on Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) meeting that was taking place at the end of October in Tasmania". CCAMLAR among other things sets the total allowable catch quotas for the valuable Patagonian toothfish.
"We also believe the new postponement could have been decided by the fact that the Australian prosecution apparently was unable to gather sufficient evidence for the case", added Mr. Flangini.
Uruguayan authorities' claim that once the "Viarsa 1" was allegedly surprised poaching and the hot pursuit began, they ordered the immediate return of the long-liner to Montevideo. However a communications blackout (manipulated or not by the captain and still to be determined) impeded the messages to get through.
Uruguay also complained to Australia about the arrest of the Fisheries Department observer aboard the "Viarsa 1" as well as the confiscation of his log book and computer disks.
Uruguay argued the observer was a Uruguayan government employee, not a member of the crew and his log book and disks were Uruguayan government property.
The observer was finally released and later travelled back to Australia to help with the investigation.