CANBERRA: The Australian Government announced on Friday that two Chinese steel-hulled trawler vessels have been seized inside Australian waters and are being taken to Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory.
The crew will be investigated by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) in Darwin, according to a joint statement by Australian Fisheries Minister Eric Abetz, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson and Justice Minister Chris Ellison.
The vessels De Yuan Yu 001 and De Yuan Yu 002 were intercepted by HMAS Ipswich inside the Australian Fishing Zone northwest of the Wessels islands off the Northern Territory coast early on Thursday after being spotted by Coastwatch aircraft, said the statement.
Sources from the Chinese Embassy in Canberra said on Friday that the two vessels were on their way to a nearby refuelling vessel for more fuel, adding they were in Australian waters due to current and wind factors.
"Thirteen crew were found on board one vessel, 14 on the other; all are People's Republic of China nationals. Each vessel weighs approximately 123 tons and is 31 metres in length," the statement said.
"Initial investigations by AFMA officers on board HMAS Ipswich found approximately 4,000 kilograms of reef fish on board the De Yuan Yu 001, and 3,000 kilograms on board the De Yuan Yu 002," it said.
The two vessels were expected to arrive in Darwin on Saturday.
The incident comes two weeks after the Australian Government said it would have to release the biggest suspected illegal fishing vessel detected in Australia's waters, after receiving advice that a successful prosecution was not possible under present law, Australia media reports said.
The Australian Government was forced to release the suspected "mother ship" the Chen Long and its 639 tonnes of fish, but vowed to review its laws.
(China Daily 03/25/2006 page2)