Uruguayan Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Martín Aguirrezabala revealed to a Congressional Committee that the Fisheries Department observer aboard the longliner Maya V dumped his technical reports and computer to the sea before been arrested for allegedly fishing in Australian waters.
Mr. Agruirrezabala was called to Congress by the Lower Chamber Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Committee on request from Deputy Leonel Heber Sellanes to explain the international incidents involving Uruguayan flagged longliners, two of which are currently apprehended in Australia.
Deputy Sellanes emphasized on the international repercussions of the serious incidents involving "Viarsa 1" and "Maya V", and the fact that "Maya V" crewmembers currently free on bail in Australia were being pushed into pleading "guilty" when "they were not responsible for any illegality", but rather the fishing company and the Fisheries Department.
Minister Aguirrezabala said that since the "Viarsa 1" incident last September 2003 the Uruguayan Fisheries Department, Dinara, had tighten controls and the number of vessels with "D" licences (enabling them to fish in high seas) had been cut from ten to three.
Regarding claims from "Maya V" crewmembers that the Fisheries Department observer Mario Andrés Morales, whom crewmembers claim was not up to his duties and liked to shoot at sea birds and sea mammals, Mr. Aguirrezabala argued Mr. Morales had lost the technical reports and his computer, because "they were dumped into the sea when the vessel was about to be apprehended by the Australian Navy".
Uruguayan Congress sources have confirmed to the press in Montevideo that Mr. Morales is an active militant of one of the ruling coalition's most conservative members of Congress, Daniel García Pintos and belonged to a radical group named "Bash and Bash".
Mr. Aguirrezabala, the Director of Uruguayan Fisheries Captain Yamandú Flangini and Deputy García Pintos belong to the same political faction of the ruling coalition.
Mr. Agruirrezabala must return to Congress next week to continue with the hearing a full session of the House in support of Spain impeded Deputy Sellanes from completing his questioning.