The big problem of “blue boats”

by Bernadette Carreon | 10 December 2016 | News

Vietnamese boats caught poaching in Plalau waters. Photo by Richard W. Brsooks

“They travel in fleets and their target is sea cucumbers and their mode of operations is to wait for the cover of darkness and then move in to shallow waters just off shore and scour the reefs of all sea cucumbers and any fish they can get,” Palau National Marine Sanctuary Executive Director Keobel Sakuma described Vietnam’s blue boats illegal fishing activity in the country.

Palau, a country affected by the “blue boats” poaching will have to deal with the problem themselves without much help from Vietnam.

In this year’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) the issue has emerged.

But how do you fight a problem when Vietnam doesn’t take any responsibility for them and a large fishing company does not own them then no one will take responsibility for them.

However, Vietnam in this year’s meeting had to confront the issue raise by affected countries like FSM.

If Vietnam is starting this “hotline”, that may help. However if that’s just a load of hot air about the hotline nothing will change.

Vietnam probably left with very little guarantees about anything other than they will probably do the absolute minimum to get away with it.

Palau’s Division of Marine Law in Palau has captured over 14 of these vessels since 2014.  The vessels are called “blue boats” because many fishing vessels from this province in Vietnam are painted blue.

Palau has chosen to take a staunch stand in combating of these illegal operations.  After trying to prosecute the full crew of the first few vessels that were captured, the leaders in Palau quickly realized that the cost of apprehending, housing, prosecuting and repatriating these illegal fishermen heavily outweighed any fines collected from the captains and the owners as well as the Vietnamese government disavowed any responsibility for them as well.  This is the reason that Palau has begun to burn many of these wooden “blue boats” in an effort to send a message to those who are considering fishing illegally in Palau’s waters, Sakuma said.