by Jude Hamblyn
Interpol has issued a ‘purple notice’ at New Zealand’s request, seeking information regarding the whereabouts and activities of the fishing vessel currently named Thunder, which has been suspected of illegal fishing.
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This is the first time New Zealand has requested an Interpol purple notice for suspected violations of international fisheries law.
Information is being sought regarding the individuals and networks that own, operate and profit from the suspected illegal actions of the vessel.
'Thunder has been operating under a number of names and flags over several years and we believe this is being done to avoid been caught violating international laws and conventions,' says Gary Orr, the Ministry for Primary Industries Manager Operational Coordination.
Thunder has been on the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing vessel list of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) since 2006 because its illegal fishing activity in CCAMLR waters undermines the convention’s conservation objectives.
It has deliberately changed its identity a number of times to avoid sanctions such as denial of fishing permits and permission to enter ports.
'It has used three identities interchangeably, including the use of removable name plates with different vessel names on the stern and pilothouse,' says Mr Orr.
The three known identities with flag states are: Wuhan No.4 (Mongolia), Thunder (Nigeria), and Kuko (unknown flag).
The vessel was last sighted in the Southern Ocean on September 2013, northwest of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, by an Australian Customs and Border Protection Service aircraft conducting a routine maritime surveillance patrol.
New Zealand’s request was supported by Norway and Australia. It is the third purple notice Interpol have issued since formation of the Interpol Fisheries Crime working group in 2012 made the issuing of purple notices for fisheries crime possible. New Zealand is a party to the working group and a member of Interpol.
The purple notice will be circulated by Interpol to relevant law enforcement agencies in all 190 member countries.