The Falkland Islands Government views any abuse or maltreatment of fishing vessel crews very seriously and, in addition to considering issues of criminal liability, where appropriate, will take any action available to it as necessary to ensure that the responsibilities for the efficient management of the fishery on behalf of the Falkland Islands are properly discharged.
This statement by the Chair of the Falkland Islands Government Fisheries Committee, Councillor Dr.Andrea Clausen, followed the announcement of the revocation of the fishing licence of the Taiwanese fishing vessel Jih Da Gan. Dr.Clausen was speaking on the Falkland Islands Radio Service's 'News Direct' programme: The Jih Da Gan sailed on 2 March 2007, from Stanley Harbour, where it had been held for some days, whilst an investigation into possible maltreatment or abuse of the vessel's crew was investigated by the Royal Falkland Islands Police. This investigation followed an incident when ten crewmen had jumped from the vessel into Stanley harbour, resulting in the disappearance and probable death by drowning of two of their number. Despite extensive questioning of the survivors of the incident and the arrest of one crew member, who was later released without charge, the vessel was allowed to leave on the grounds that insufficient evidence had been found that would have allowed criminal charges to be brought in the Falkland Islands. However, according to a release from the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department, its Director, Mr. John Barton, who also considered the available evidence, concluded that the conditions prevailing aboard the Jih Da Gan were unacceptable and moved to revoke the licence. The owners were given fourteen days in which to make any representations as to why revocation should not proceed. That period has concluded and the licence has been revoked. Asked during the radio interview whether FIG might refuse to give out licences "on a moral basis" Chairman of the Fisheries Committee Councillor Dr.Andrea Clausen said, "I don't think that we could do anything purely on a moral basis. We would have to have evidence. The Director of Fisheries has a number of discretionary powers, but I don't think that 'moral basis' would be covered there. Whilst the police might not have had enough evidence to take action, the Director of Fisheries did and he concluded that the conditions were not appropriate on that vessel. Councillor Clausen added that there was a move afoot by the Falkland Islands Government to establish a working party to look at the whole range of issues relating to working conditions on fishing vessels. This would not only cover issues of abuse and maltreatment, but wider issues regarding safety. An inquest begins in Stanley on Friday, following the discovery in the harbour of a body, believed to be that of one of the two missing crewmen. John Fowler (MercoPress) Stanley