Uruguayan Fisheries Director Captain Yamandú Flangini said this Thursday he ignored the charges presented by Australian authorities against officers and crew of the Uruguayan flagged longliner Maya V allegedly caught illegally fishing in Australian waters.
"I have no news of what is happening; anyhow it's no longer a Fisheries Department issue it now belongs to the Uruguayan Foreign Affairs Ministry", indicated Captain Flangini. The "Maya V" was apprehended early February by an Australian frigate and later escorted to Fremantle.
"I guess any news should be coming from Foreign Affairs. I've had no contact with Australia, and I shouldn't since the crew with the exception of the observer does not belong to the Fisheries Department". "We've requested the repatriation of the Uruguayan crewmembers, which has not happened so far, and we've also asked the Agriculture Department to demand the liberation of our observer following International Labour Organization, ILO agreements".
However Captain Flangini insisted that that the "Maya V" was licenced by the Uruguayan government to operate in the high seas with toothfish, "a non restricted species". "High seas fishing is recognized as long as it's done responsibly with an observer and a satellite communications system".
However it was revealed in Montevideo that the Uruguayan government has invited Navelmar allegedly the company behind the two Uruguayan flagged longliners caught illegally fishing toothfish in Australian waters, "Viarsa 1" and "Maya V" to leave the country.
The company was also fined the equivalent of 45,000 US dollars for having tried to conceal the alteration of the satellite communication system and falsification of vital fisheries information from the "Viarsa 1", apprehended last August after a three weeks hot pursuit.
The Uruguayan captain and some Spanish crew members who have illegal fishing records are currently awaiting trial in Fremantle.
The second Uruguayan longliner "Maya V" and also linked to Navelmar was apprehended early February and this week in Fremantle was formally charged for illegal fishing in Australian waters.
According to COLTO (Coalition of Legal Toothfish Operators), Navelmar and other Uruguayan registered companies, Illiad SRl., Lingont S.A., Plestin S.A., Kessel S.A. and Fadilur S.A. are closely linked to the Antonio Vidal Family from Galicia, northwest Spain.
Together with Florindo González Corral and Florindo González Otero according to the Spanish press, they are identified as the heads of the "Galician mafia" or "Galician Connection", involved in illegal fishing in several parts of the world.
Uruguayan Fisheries authorities recently withdrew fishing licences from another five longliners identified with illegal operations: "Dorita" belonging to Navelmar; "Eclipse II", "Mar de Escocia", "Lugalpesca", "Atlantic 52" and "Sherpa 1".
"Political activist" The Uruguayan press revealed that the Uruguayan Fisheries Department observer aboard the "Maya V", Mario Andrés, has little fisheries experience and is more a "political activist" closely linked to the office of Congressman Daniel García Pintos and his political crony Captain Yamandú Flangini who is Director of the Uruguayan Fisheries Department.
The Uruguayan press has also indicated of growing irritation between the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Fisheries Department which depends from the Agriculture Ministry.
"Professional diplomats are fed up of having to respond for the wrongdoings and embarrassments caused by Fisheries Department licenced vessels and are dumping the issue in Agriculture's office", is quoted a reliable source from the Uruguayan Congress.
Deputy Daniel García Pintos has requested a special meeting of the congressional Standing Committee (since Congress is in summer recess) to discuss with all parties involved, Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Labour and Defence ministries, the current fisheries situation and "foreign" attempts to "push Uruguay out of international fishing grounds".
From Punta Arenas the Special Vessels Crew and Officers Union president, Jorge Cofré confirmed that two of its members, belonging to the "Maya V" will be retained to face trial in Australia for having illegal fishing records.
Mr. Cofré said that together with the captain of the vessel Charles Thomas, a Spanish officer, a Chilean fisheries master, the two brothers from Punta Arenas Luis and Armando Marquez Saldivia will have to remain in Australia, "but the rest of the crew should be soon back home".
Press Release Illegal Fishing Charges Applauded
Illegal Fishing Charges ApplaudedI note the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) has instituted proceedings against all of the crew of the suspected illegal fishing vessel the Maya V. The DPP is an independent law agency and makes its own decisions on the basis of evidence and the law.
I am however pleased to note that for the first time all of the crew on board a foreign fishing vessel have been charged. This accords with the Australian Government's tougher approach on illegal fishing in Australia's territorial waters.
Coupled with the passage through the Senate this week of two bills increasing fines to a maximum of $825,000 and allowing the recovery of the cost of the chase from convicted illegal fishing vessels, this action by the DPP should send the clearest of messages to would be pirates that there is no profit whatsoever in plundering Australia's fish stocks and breaching our border controls.
Senator the Hon. I. Macdonald Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation ? Australia