Vietnamese ‘blue boat’ owners fined $36m, 43 crew charged

THE Vietnamese caught recently stealing Solomon Islands marine resources will have to fork out $36 million (US$4.6 million) if they wanted their three blue boats back.

Fisheries minister John Maneniaru revealed this in parliament.

He said after consultation with the Director of Public Prosecution and the Attorney General, a fine of $12 million (US$1.5 million) will be imposed for the release of one boat.

In the event the owners failed to pay up, the boats will be destroyed.

Mr Maneniaru said under our Bio-Security laws, foreign boats caught in our waters but fail to pay up their fines will be subject to destruction.

The minister also revealed the 43 Vietnamese fishermen who are being detained at the Rove Police Club have been charged under the Fisheries Management Act 2015.

The charges are:

*Illegal entry without permit, which attracts a $12 million (US$1.5 million) fine or imprisonment term for none citizens of not more than five years

*Illegal fishing without licence from Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, which attracts a fine of 5 million or imprisonment term not exceeding five years

*Using of diving apparatus in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and territorial waters of Solomon Islands, which attracts a fine not exceeding $5million (US$641,000) or imprisonment term not exceeding three years

*Harvesting of bech-de-mer using illegal diving gears in the country’s EEZ, which attracts a fine of $50,000 (US$6,412) and

*Illegal harvesting of bech-de-mer, which is currently banned by the Solomon government. This can result in a fine of $100,000 (US$12,825).

He told parliament the captains of the three boats have admitted breaking the nation’s fisheries laws.

He said if the fishermen fail to pay up the fines, the case will be referred to the Director of Public Prosecution to deal with through the court process.

The minister also revealed that attempts to contact the owners of the boats to pay the fines for the offences laid against their crews were unsuccessful.

He said families of the detained Vietnamese have made repeated attempts to contact the owners of the boats proved futile.

Mr Maneniaru also revealed the address of the blue boat owner was provided by one of the detained captains, which was passed on to the Vietnamese police to help out.

But he said whether Vietnam police will assist in this matter is another issue.