Pacific News Minute: Vietnamese “Blue Boats” Caught Fishing Illegally In New Caledonia, PNG

Jan 24, 2017

A Vietnamese "Blue Boat."
Credit Wikimedia Commons

French Naval forces caught three Vietnamese vessels fishing illegally in New Caledonia. Four others were detained there two weeks ago and last month Papua New Guinea’s Fisheries minister described the so-called Blue Boats as a threat to national security. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

While the small wooden boats will take shark fins, clams and fish, their main target is sea cucumber, also known as beche de mer, or here in Hawaii, as loli. Almost all of the animals will be dried and exported to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan to be consumed in soup alleged to act as an aphrodesiac.

In the past, fleets of these raiders have shown up in Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and Australia, and lately, in PNG and New Caledonia. All seven of the vessels detained this month were intercepted on a reef off Belep in northern New Caledonia and local media quoted a French Official, wondering how and where the small boats were refueled to be able to stay at sea so long.

Palau and Indonesia often burn the boats of illegal fishermen.  But a fisheries advisor named Francisco Blaha told Radio New Zealand that, while that looks great on television, it’s not enough. Blaha said the key is to warn Hanoi  to control its fishermen, or face stiff penalties on its seafood exports to Europe. “That will definitely get their attention,” He said, “Because they depend massively on exports to the European Union.”

James Movick, Director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency said its members will discuss how their systems to monitor tuna pirates on the open ocean might be applicable to the inshore fishing for Sea cucumbers at a meeting later this year.