The blacklisted Kunlun poaching vessel, which is wanted in both Australia and New Zealand, has been detained off Phuket in regard to fishery-related violations, as it was confirmed by the Phuket Marine Police.
''We are currently undergoing an investigation in regard to some serious claims that the vessel’s captain along with the crew took part in the illegal sale of highly prized rare fish,'' Phuket Marine Police commander Colonel Phanya Chaichana commented.
''The vessel is not equipped with any fishing nets and is not a trawler.''
The captain and all of the crew members remain on board the Indonesian-registered vessel, which is currently anchored off Tapaonoi island, near Phuket, while officials conduct their check-up of the poaching ship’s documentation and movements.
Kunlun in CCAMLR Area. Pic taken on 7 January by Interpol.
Earlier this month the patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington was unable to send boarding parties on to two poaching ships after their respective sea-men defied all orders to stop.
It's understood that the Kunlun is capable of storing fish alive on board. The ship was tasked to take the fish to Songkhla, in southern Thailand and from then on to Vietnam.
The arrest of the vessel comes following another previous violation that occurred two months previously when the Kunlun was caught by the New Zealand Navy while fishing illegally in Australian waters, as well as another case just a month old involving possession of banned fishing equipment, again in Australian waters but this time the Kunlun was intercepted by the Sea Shepherd ship, Sam Simon.
Colonel Phanya commented that they managed to apprehend the vessel after receiving request from Australia.
The poaching vessel has undergone the process of changing its name over 10 times in order to avoid prosecution.
Back in January, Interpol issued the Kunlun a Purple Notice regarding illegal fishing activities for toothfish inside an area that falls under the regulation of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
This is the second time this week that the Kunlun manages to appear in the news. Early on Sunday morning a Spanish seafarer was rescued from the vessel after which he was taken to Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket City with cuts that doctors believe were the case of self-harm and a possible attempted suicide.
It remains unclear as to whether or not these self-inflicted injuries were related in any way to the ship’s apprehension.
On February 2nd, the Sam Simon managed to intercept the Kunlun along with another poaching vessel, the Yongding, in Australian waters. The Sam Simon then immediately chased the Kunlun out of its Southern Ocean hunting grounds.
All fishing activities for Patagonian toothfish – which is better known as Chilean Seabass in the smart restaurants where it is served - is under strict regulation due to protection policies for fragile stocks.
Toothfish can go as high as $150 per kilogram if sold in the US and Japan, where their buttery fillets are in high demand by the top-class restaurants. Harvesting them is subject to a number of strict international regulations.