The vessel Bangun Perkasa, which is infested with rats, has been moved to near Dutch Harbor, just beyond the 3-mile line that delimits Alaska waters. Ships carrying rats are prohibited from entering state waters.
The Perkasa didn’t have a valid flag state registration, and Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis said it was seized Sept. 7 as a stateless vessel for allegedly violating U.S. laws.
The ship has 22 crewmembers onboard, and a boarding party also remains onboard while the cutter Alex Haley stands nearby. Francis said it would take some time for the necessary officials to assemble at Dutch Harbor and begin exterminating the rats.
Francis said crewmen were trying to dump the net when the Coast Guard boarded the ship about 2,600 miles southwest of Kodiak. The Coast Guard retrieved the net, and then found 30 tons of squid and 30 shark carcasses onboard, she said.
Officials did not find proper documentation onboard.
“No license or permits, and no records of their catch,” Francis said.
State and federal officials are working on a plan to rid the ship of rats, using traps and anti-coagulant poison. The process might take up to seven days, said Joe Meehan with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The crew will be off the ship before eradication efforts start, Meehan said.
U.S. officials were tipped off about the illegal ship when a plane from the Fisheries Agency of Japan spotted it Aug. 31, Francis said. The Coast Guard sent a helicopter from the Munro and spotted the ship. The Munro then confirmed it had high seas drift net equipment.
The ship’s crew initially claimed Indonesia as their flag state.
“When we contacted Indonesia, they said, ‘Nope, not ours,’” Francis said. “They became flagless at that point, and that’s when we seized them.”
The crewmembers will be processed by Customs and Border Protection and Department of Homeland Security agents, and then returned to their home countries, she said. The nationalities of the crewmembers were not immediately known.
The Coast Guard will hand the vessel and the catch over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration law division for further investigation, including for fishing violations. Results of the investigation will be turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
It was not immediately known what crewmembers were fishing for.
“We just know what they had onboard when we boarded them,” Francis said. “Given the catch they had, I would assume they were a squid boat.”