“As part of a multi-agency operation, the HMNZS WELLINGTON has intercepted two vessels claiming to be flagged to Equatorial Guinea, fishing illegally in the Southern Ocean,” Mr McCully said.
A day later, the government also reported a third vessel from Equatorial Guinea fishing illegally. “The HMNZS WELLINGTON has intercepted a vessel, calling itself the Yongding, fishing illegally to the west of the Ross Sea,” Mr McCully continued.
“Fishing in this area is regulated by the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and New Zealand conducts regular patrols in the Southern Ocean targeting illegal fishing operations.
“New Zealand is in touch with Equatorial Guinea and is asking permission to board the vessels, if their flag status is verified.
“New Zealand has requested that Interpol issue a Purple Notice for each vessel, which would put alerts out on the vessels and their owners amongst 190 Interpol member countries. We are also working with ports to ensure these vessels cannot offload their illegal catch or profit from their criminal activity.
“The vessels are well-known, repeat offenders and their ownership has in the past been linked to Spanish interests. We have alerted the Spanish Government to what we have discovered.
“HMNZS WELLINGTON has gathered valuable evidence about the vessels’ activities, including photographic and video footage of illegal fishing. This evidence will contribute to any legal action taken against the owners and benefactors of these illegal fishing activities.
"New Zealand is committed to doing its part to protect the Southern Ocean and we will continue to work with international partners to take every possible action to deter illegal fishing and prosecute those responsible,” Mr McCully says.