Kunlun detained with 180 Tonnes of illegally harvested toothfish / by Francisco Blaha

Further to my last post related to this topic, the Kunlun arrived in Phuket last Monday and attempted to offload what it claimed was groper. Previously registered to Equatorial Guinea, it was falsely reflagged as an Indonesian vessel and renamed Taichan. Bangkok-based New Zealand officials, police and customs officers arrived on the island soon after and have been working with Thai counterparts to hold the boat and its illegal haul.

Its understood one of the heads of the notorious Spanish syndicate Vidal Armadores also travelled to Phuket after it became clear the boat was to be detained.

The NZ government worked quietly behind the scenes after the navy was slammed for failing to board two of a fleet of three vessels spotted poaching in Antarctic waters in January. After tracking the Kunlun to Thailand, they alerted officials and passed on evidence collected by the HMNZS Wellington patrol.

Meanwhile, recent raids in Spain on Vidal Armadores-linked companies came after pressure from Wellington. Operation Sparrow - an investigation into alleged links with illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities marked the first time Spain enforced a new fisheries law.

The rust-eaten Yongding and Songhua are still operating in the Southern Ocean.

The shell companies behind this vessels is Stanley Management Incorporated, a Panama company and Sucre Arias Reyes, law firm, that he said provides a front for boats fishing illegally fishing. 

The vessels had no fishing gear on board, so it could have been dumped as a way to hide the "gun" for the work. While the vessels is designed and geared as a longlines, it has been operation as bottom gilleneter as well,  (See below for the differences)


Thailand on their side is not due to pass domestic fishing laws until June, which left authorities with few legal options. But they'd declared the catch as groper, not toothfish and It is an offence to declare your fished something different to what it is. Misreporting is a component of Unreported, one of the "U" in IUU.

Separately, the boat had gone in there identifying itself as the Tiachan, flying the Indonesian flag, and it was easy to establish with the Indonesians that they didn't own it. So, it is technically stateless, giving the Thai authorities a facet to keep the vessel held, so the next step is to confiscate the catch, so they don't get any benefit from their misdeeds.In the meantime Vidal Amadores have had their people on the ground trying to get their boat sprung.

All 36 people on board the vessel – the Peruvian captain, four Spaniards and 31 Indonesians – have yet to face any charges, but are under watch onboard the ship. One Spaniard was removed from the ship before it was seized due to self-inflicted wounds over alleged family issues.

So the plot thickens.