Dramatic high seas pursuit ends in arrest

Aug 27, 2003
Author: Phindile Makwakwa, Dept of Environmental Affairs & Tourism

The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mohammed Valli Moosa today announced that Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism's Branch of Marine and Coastal Management had successfully assisted the Australians to arrest the Uruguayan registered fishing vessel the Viarsa 1.

The Viarsa 1 is suspected of fishing illegally in Australian waters off McDonald and Heard Islands.

Minister Moosa said that the fishery control officers of the Department were onboard the SA Agulhas and joined the chase over a week ago and together with the John Ross intercepted the Viarsa approximately 3,600 kilometres south west of Cape Town late on Wednesday afternoon. The Australians have been engaged in hot pursuit for 20 days, but was unable to affect an arrest without the assistance of South Africa.

"The Australian fishery officers, together with the Departments fishery control officers boarded the Viarsa by inflatable dinghy in icy conditions", said Minister Moosa. In a well-planned operation, the SA Agulhas, the Southern Supporter and a British fishery patrol vessel the Dorada intercepted the Viarsa 1 enabling the Australians to carry out the arrest.

The support rendered by the Department to the Australian authorities is part of an increased effort by the South African Government to protect Patagonian toothfish and other fish stocks that occur in South Africa's exclusive economic zone and in the fragile ecosystem of the Southern Ocean.

Minister Moosa said that the South African Government was well regarded internationally for its efforts in stamping out illegal fishing both in South African waters and on the High Seas.

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