Uruguayan flagged longliner Maya V apprehended last Saturday by the Australian Navy allegedly illegally fishing is under bareboat charter to Navalmar S.A. in Uruguay, the same company that chartered the Viarsa 1 another Uruguayan flagged longliner arrested last September and waiting for trial in Perth, according to COLTO, Coalition of Legal Toothfish Operators.
Navalmar S.A., Illiad SRL, Lingont S.A., Plestin S.A., Kessel S.A. and Fadilur S.A. among other Uruguayan and Spanish companies apparently are linked to the Antonio Vidal family, a powerful fishing industry businessman from La Coruña, Galicia, (northwest Spain) who is accused of involvement in illegal fishing of toothfish. Besides the "Viarsa 1", apprehended after a 21 days hot pursuit in the South Seas by Australian, South African and Falklands fisheries patrol vessels, in 2002 Vidal Armadores lost another longliner "Camouco", apprehended by the French Navy and finally sunk in Reunion Island.
Both "Maya V" and "Viarsa 1" operate under Uruguayan category "D" licence exclusive for international waters, extended by the Uruguayan Fisheries Department, DINARA.
However in the case of "Maya V" there are conflicting versions between Uruguayan captain Charles Thomas and the Australian Royal Navy as to the precise position and circumstances of apprehension. Contrary to the "Viarsa 1" incident the "Maya V" collaborated with the Australian Navy from the moment she was sighted.
Uruguayan Ambassador in Canberra has been instructed to ensure the wellbeing of all crew members and help with any legal assistance they may need. "Maya V" under escort from the Australian frigate "Warramunga", depending on weather conditions is expected to reach Freemantle by February 4/5.
Chilean diplomats are also in the move since 23 of the 41 crewmembers are Chileans, ten of them from Punta Arenas. The local Crewmen and Special Vessels Union was informed by Chilean diplomats that after being questioned, and if none of them have illegal fishing records or were involved in the navigation course of the apprehended vessel, they will be repatriated and "should be arriving in Punta Arenas towards the third week of February".
"Viarsa 1" Uruguayan captain Jorge Ribot and three Spanish crewmembers are in Perth on bail, waiting to face trial for the September incident.