The long hunt for the last of the illegal toothfish poachers has come to an end with the arrest of the Nigerian-flagged Viking in Indonesia.
The arrest was announced by Indonesian fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti at a press conference designed for impact as she was flanked by the Commander of the country’s Western Naval Fleet and a group of high-ranking Indonesian officials.
She said that Viking had been arrested for entering Indonesian waters without permission and for falsifying the vessel’s identity.
The Chilean skipper and the ten crewmen from Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Peru and Myanmar have also been detained.
Susi Pudjiastuti said that Sea Shepherd had notified the Indonesian government of the suspected entry of Viking into Indonesian waters and the vessel was identified by the Indonesian Navy in waters around the Riau Islands.
Viking is the last of the group of longliners/netters referred to as the Bandit Six that had exploited every possible legal loophole with frequent changes of name and registry to continue to fish in the Southern Ocean where huge distances make monitoring and surveillance a massive challenge.
In 2013, registered as Snake, Viking was the first fishing vessel to be issued with an Interpol Purple Notice for fishing-related violations following a petition from authorities in Norway. It had last been boarded by Australian customs officers in September last year when it was on its way south to Antarctic waters.
According to COLTO, Viking’s owners and operators are suspected of violating national laws and regulations, as well as international conventions by engaging in fraud and fisheries-related crime.
Indonesian fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti has indicated that Viking will be scuttled following its arrest and detention.