Vietnamese boats fined in Solomons could be destroyed

Vietnamese blue boats caught fishing illegally in Solomon Islands have been fined $US4.6 million.

The three boats and their 43 crew were caught last month in Rennell and Bellona province and brought to the capital Honiara for investigation.

The Solomon Star newspaper reports that the fisheries minister John Maneniaru revealed in parliament that after consultations with the Director of Public Prosecution and the Attorney General the fishermen would be fined $US1.59 million per boat.

Mr Maneniaru said if the owners fail to pay up, the boats will be destroyed and further action taken against their crew.

Charges against the crew include illegal entry without a permit, fishing without licence, use of diving apparatus for fishing in Solomon Islands EEZ, harvesting of beche-de-mer using illegal diving gear, and harvesting of beche-de-mer.

The minister told the paper attempts to contact the owners of the boats has been unsuccessful.

He said a request for assistance has been made to the Vietnamese police.

Fishing activity by blue boats has become a recurrent pestilence for Pacific regional fisheries managers.

The Forum Fisheries Agency has described those driving the fleet as robbers.

The FFA said the operation to capture the boats was a great example of regional and multi-agency co-operation involving local communities and authorities with aerial support provided by the French.


Photo: AFP A Vietnamese "blue boat".