Change of plan for Viarsa 1

Sep 1, 2003
Author: P&S

Due to legalities the arrested Uruguayan fishing vessel Viarsa 1 is unlikely to be escorted to Cape Town before being sent to Australia where the crew and owners will be charged with fishing illegally for Patagonian Toothfish.

Viarsa 1 was intercepted in the Southern Ocean by four vessels, the Australian fisheries supply ship Southern Supporter, the South African Antarctic supply vessel SA Agulhas, the Falkland Islands patrol vessel Dorada and the Smit Marine tug John Ross, after a lengthy chase across the southern Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The chase ended last week with Australian Customs & Sea Fisheries inspectors and armed South African security forces boarding the vessel. The crew of Viarsa 1 did not resist the boarding and arrest.

Viarsa 1 was seen in Australian EEZ waters off Heard and MacDonald Islands in early August with her nets down, but refused to stop when ordered to by the Australian patrol vessel Southern Supporter. The pursuit that resulted has been described as the longest sea chase in modern times, with the Australian government vowing to follow the fleeing vessel as far as it took.

Now the big question that remains to be answered is that if the Uruguayan-flagged Viarsa 1 was fishing illegally, as seems the case, then what was the Uruguayan fisheries inspector on board doing about the matter and what role did he play during the ensuing bid to escape arrest?

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