The Falkland Islands Court in Stanley informed Tuesday the owners and master of the detained longliner Elqui, allegedly surprised poaching in South Georgia's waters that they face three charges each for permitting the vessel to fish without a licence.
A pre-trial review will take place Monday April 4, and the preliminary trail date has been set for April 18th.
FIBS reports that the master of the boat, Christian Enrique Vargas and defence lawyer Richard Marlor representing the owners, Jeneagles Corporation both pleaded guilty to permitting the boat to carry an un-stowed fishing line and gear without a licence and for failing to notify the Grytviken Marine Officer prior to entry.
However Ros Cheek said that it was the duty of the Court that the correct person or company is charged with an offence and admitted the prosecution has had difficulty establishing the correct owners of the vessel. Nevertheless Mr. Richard Marlor said that he was acting on behalf of the owners, Jeneagles and had received a fax from them instructing him to represent the master and ship owners of the "Elqui" in respect of the vessels activities.
"Elqui" supposedly is registered in Conakry-Guinea and according to the 2002/03 Lloyds Register of Ships the original owning company was Pesquera de los Andes, but was later flagged in Uruguay.
The longliner was allegedly seen fishing in South Georgia waters by two passing cruise vessels, "Explorer 2" and "Grigory Mikheev", with the latter carrying the Governor of the Falklands who also happens to be the Commissioner of South Georgia and was on his annual visit to South Georgia.
South Georgia toothfish season officially begins May 1 and extends until August 31.
Falkland Islands Fisheries patrol vessel "Sygma" escorted "Elqui" to Stanley, where she arrived March 7.
According to the Coalition of Legal Toothfish Operators, COLTO's official website "Elqui" was previously named "Peñalba" (1990) and flagged to Chile. Built in 1966 by Maritima del Musel SA in Gijon, Spain, in 2003 the vessel owner was registered by Lloyds as Chilean company Pesquera de Los Andes, however she is now believed to be owned by Marcelo Matus Ceo.
"Elqui" was involved in landing legal toothfish in South Africa in 1996, and has discharged toothfish in Mauritius since 1998. "Elqui"'s Chilean license was sold to Eduardo Infante, owner of the vessel Globalpesca I (ex-Zarya) in late 2003.
Re-flagged to Uruguay she discharges toothfish in Mauritius, where her marine agent is Seaborne. "Elqui" later unloaded toothfish in Port Louis in February 2003 and then again in May, staying in port until mid-June while awaiting bait. She returned in August and December to discharge toothfish, and to receive bait, equipment and provisions.
As at February 2004, "Elqui" Category D fishing license, owned by Vakin SA, was one of four remaining high seas fishing licenses held by Uruguayan vessels. Uruguayan Government Fisheries department DINARA suspended the licenses of Atlantic 52, Dorita, Eclipse XI, Lugal Pesca, Mar de Escocia and Sherpa Uno in early 2004. Vakin SA had also owned the fishing licenses for Lugalpesca and Atlantic 52.
The vessel was seen in Cape Town in April 2004 where she underwent repairs, having previously discharged toothfish in Mauritius.