The U.S. Coast Guard transferred custody of the fishing vessel Da Cheng for large-scale high seas drift net fishing to two patrol vessels from the China Fishery Law Enforcement Command Tuesday.
The 177-foot fishing vessel was seized 850 miles east of Tokyo, Japan in the North Pacific Ocean.
The Da Cheng was targeting albacore tuna using 10 miles of large-scale drift nets and had already caught about 30 metric tons during its current trip.
The Coast Guard also found 6 metric tons of shark bodies and fins aboard the vessel.
The Coast Guard says high seas drift net fishing is a destructive fishing practice and a form of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing that indiscriminately kills massive amounts of fish and other marine life such as whales, sea birds, sharks and turtles by means of enormous nets suspended for miles in open water.
The practice is universally condemned and is a significant threat to ocean ecosystems and to the food and economic security of nations and communities that rely on fisheries resources.
"Our Chinese law enforcement partners take the practice of HSDN fishing as seriously as we do. I have full faith that they will utilize the most stringent methods possible to prosecute the vessel and its owners," said Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, Commander, Coast Guard 17th District.
Both the United States and China actively participate in international efforts to deter the practice of large-scale high seas drift net fishing as encouraged by a 1992 United Nations moratorium. The Coast Guard and NOAA Fisheries Service annually host enforcement officers from the China Fishery Law Enforcement Command on board Coast Guard cutters patrolling in the North Pacific Ocean. The Coast Guard also participates in closely coordinated fisheries enforcement patrols with the member nations of the North Pacific Anadromous Fisheries Commission and North Pacific Coast Guard Forum.
The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Rush sighted the Da Cheng on the high seas of the North Pacific Ocean and boarded the vessel at sea in accordance with the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission's high seas boarding and inspection procedures on July 27. The vessel was subsequently determined to be operating without valid flag state registration.
The Honolulu-based Rush is a 378-foot high endurance cutter capable of performing worldwide search and rescue and law enforcement missions.