Insung 7 a Korean vessel with IUU fish on board ends its 9 month drift in Montevideo / by Francisco Blaha

A Korean fishing vessel accused of illegal fishing, will be able to put an end to 9 months at sea and finally enter the port of Montevideo in Uruguay on Aug. 5.

The 647-ton Insung No. 7 departed Busan Port last year, but after catching Patagonian toothfish between June and Oct. 30 it was refused entry to sell its fish at any maritime port due to its alleged illegal catch. It could only enter ports to buy supplies and oil only (and this is debatable)

The Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) refused to issue a Catch Certificate based on its vessel monitoring system, which indicated the ship crossed repeatedly into Argentina's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

"Although the company denied it, we have hard evidence that while it was at sea it crossed into Argentina's EEZ 11 times," said an official at the ministry.

Without a Catch Certificate, no vessel can dock and sell its fish according to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) agreement.

As a result, the vessel has been at sea for almost nine additional months without docking. During that time, food, necessities and fuel have been loaded from passing cargo ships. 

"Since July this year, we have negotiated with the Uruguayan government, asking them to allow the vessel to dock without a catch document. We asked them to do so for humanitarian reasons," the official said. "We also told them that there is a suspicion the vessel engaged in overfishing, but no final conclusion has been drawn," she added.

The vessel's 30 crew members including the captain reported to local media last month that they were in poor condition. They said that because the ministry didn't issue the certificate they were forced to stay at sea despite being short on food and oil.

The Korean MOF has been criticised that it put European Union concerns over illegal fishing ahead of its own nationals. The EU designated Korea as a preliminary IUU fishing nation last year. After an on-site investigation by visiting EU officials in June, its final verdict has been delayed until January next year.

The southern seas are not for the faint hearted 

The southern seas are not for the faint hearted 

The ministry official said that such criticism is groundless. "It is the fishing company that owns the ship which has been at odds with the government. It has taken its crew hostage and is jeopardising their lives.

"Entering a port is possible at any time, if the captain of the vessel wanted to. It was their decision not to enter the port. Since April we kept asking the vessel to enter any nearby port, but it insisted we should issue the certificate first and then investigate possible illegal fishing," the official said.

"That is not possible especially when the vessel left evidence of its activities." 

When it enters the port, the catch will remain on board. By cross checking the catch records, the government will investigate the allegation. Once confirmed, the fishing company will face a fine or a suspension of fishing order for a certain period of time.

The Insung No. 7 already made the bad news in 2012, when illegally took $600,000 worth of Patagonian toothfish from the Southern Ocean in 2011, four times its allocated quota. CCAMLR members tried to designate it as an IUU vessel, but the Korean delegation vetoed this, and the ministry just fined the company $1,800 instead.

And the before that (for a better reason) when it rescue the survivors of its sister vessel the Insung No. 1, that capsized in the Ross Sea in December 2010, killing half its crew.

Korea has one of the worst records when it comes to fisheries compliance (I wrote about it here and here) but as well in terms of safety at sea.

Original source here