Uruguay is waiting for official details of the apprehension by the Australian Navy of a Uruguayan flagged longliner allegedly caught illegally fishing in isolated Australian territorial waters.
"Until we receive the exact position where the "Maya V" was apprehended and the circumstances, I'd rather make no comments. But if she was effectively fishing in Australian jurisdiction she must be arrested no matter what she's fishing. That's our policy with Brazilian vessels and other flags caught in our EEZ", said Captain Yamandú Flangini, Director of the Aquatic Resources Agency, Uruguay's Fisheries Department on Monday afternoon.
Last Saturday an official release from the Australian Defence and Fisheries ministries indicated that a "Royal Australian Navy warship successfully apprehended late Friday a vessel suspected of fishing illegally within Australia's EEZ around the remote Heard and McDonald islands over 4,000 kilometres south.west of Perth". "Our frigate HMAS Warramunga and her sailors on patrol in Australia's southern oceans battled extremely bad weather and high seas to intercept and board the Maya V". Apparently the Australian Navy boarding party first made contact with the Maya V on Thursday 22 and an attempted boarding was abandoned because of weather conditions. "The Maya V was issued with a legal direction to proceed to Freemantle and when weather conditions permitted late Friday, the Navy took control of the Maya V after sailors fast roped to the fishing vessel's deck from Warramunga's Seahawk helicopter". Maya V escorted by the Australian frigate is expected to dock early February in Freemantle. "The Australian Fisheries Management Authority also has officers onboard and will investigate the vessel and its suspected illegal catch further once it reaches Australia".
Captain Flangini said the "Maya V" has a Uruguayan licence to fish in international waters and so far "we've never had any claims or accusations against her". "Besides she has a VMS system, a DINARA observer is onboard and she reports regularly with Montevideo. Since Saturday I've been trying to contact them with two satellite cellular phones but to no avail".
According to Uruguayan Navy sources the "Maya V" has a crew of 27 sailors and 13 of those are uruguayan citizen,the rest are from Spain, Chile and a portugues her Captain is Mr. Charles Thomas.
Last October Uruguay and Australia were involved in a similar incident when suspected illegal fishing Uruguayan flagged longliner "Viarsa 1" was returned to Australia from the South Atlantic Ocean by the Australian Navy after a 21 day hot pursuit and apprehension involving an Australian Fisheries patrol vessel with the support from units belonging to South Africa and Falkland Islands fisheries.
The captain of Viarsa 1 and several crewmembers are free on bail waiting to face trial in an Australian court in Perth.
Antarctic and South Atlantic waters are rich in the much coveted toothfish which given its extraordinary price is targeted by poachers.