Serious accusations were aired in the Montevideo press against the Uruguayan Fisheries Department observer of the longliner Maya V, apprehended by the Australian Navy for allegedly illegally fishing.
The captain and 41 crewmembers of the Uruguayan flagged "Maya V" are currently free on bail awaiting trial in Perth and could be sanctioned with heavy fines and/or prison terms.
According to an article published in a Montevideo daily, Uruguayan crewmembers interviewed by phone from Montevideo claim that "Mario Andrés Moreira, DINARA's observer aboard the "Maya V" was well aware of what was going on onboard (illegal fishing) and with a powerful rifle belonging to one of the Spanish officers he liked to shoot from the bridge sea gulls, sea lions and young whales". A "hobby" also enjoyed by Captain Charles Thomas.
Mr. Moreira apparently "spent much of the time sleeping, drinking (on occasions too much) and playing cards with the officers in the bridge. He really didn't do much work.
We started fishing December 24 and he only appeared in the cold storage three or four days later to check the size and weight of the fish", and then for a month long he didn't come back, when allegedly he spent his time firing at sea birds and sea mammals.
Crewmembers also claim that Mr. Moreira changed his testimony is Australia, "following DINARA's instructions he incriminated "Maya V" officers saying they knew they were operating in a banned area".
According to the article crewmembers are divided regarding the strategy to follow in the coming trial: while the Spaniards, Chileans and Peruvians are willing to follow the Australian solicitors' recommendations and plead guilty "which means they will be expulsed from Australia after paying a fine", the Uruguayans "will plead innocence saying they ignored the dealings of Captain Thomas and his Spanish and Chilean officers".
Uruguayan crewmembers fear that if they plead guilty they won't have a chance to go back to sea.
Captain Thomas and officers will be going to court next March 23.
Uruguayan crewmembers have legal counselling from two different lawyers offices, one contracted by Alcimar owner of "Maya V" and another contracted by the Uruguayan Embassy in Canberra.
Following the press reports members of the Uruguayan Parliament have requested the Agriculture Committee to invite Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Minister Martin Aguirrezabala for a hearing.