Coast Guard team nabs illegal Russian trawler

Ship was fishing inside U.S. waters

Posted: Wednesday, August 02, 2000

ANCHORAGE -- A Russian trawler was seized Tuesday in the Bering Sea for fishing inside U.S. economic zone waters, the Coast Guard said.

A law enforcement team from the Coast Guard cutter Acushnet spotted the 150-foot Spitak 800 yards inside the 200-mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, said Coast Guard spokesman Darrell Wilson.

The trawler, which was first spotted Monday during a routine patrol, turned to flee after attempts were made to contact it by radio, flag hoists and signal light.

The Acushnet chased the trawler, which steamed into Russian waters and finished retrieving its nets before returning to U.S. waters for boarding, Wilson said.

``They didn't get very far,'' he said.

The trawler was seized Tuesday after permission was received from the Coast Guard in Washington, D.C.

The 20-person crew and Capt. Igor Ryabykh put up no resistance, Wilson said. They don't speak English and used a translation dictionary to communicate with the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard found about 150 pounds of several kinds of fish on board the vessel.

The trawler, which is owned by the Kil Joint Stock Co., was being escorted to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands where it will be turned over to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The crew will be handed over to Immigration and Naturalization Service agents for processing back to Russia, Wilson said. A translator was being sent to Dutch Harbor to help out.

The Coast Guard, meanwhile, will hand over its evidence to the U.S. Attorney in Anchorage who will decide whether to prosecute. If fines are to be levied and the company can't pay, the boat and its catch will be auctioned off, Wilson said.

The trawler and its escort were expected to arrive in Dutch Harbor by Friday.

The incident was the second time this summer the Coast Guard has seized a foreign vessel in U.S. waters off the Alaska coast. The 177-foot Arctic Wind, a Korean-owned, Russian-crewed and Honduran-flagged driftnetter, was seized in May after it was spotted south of the Aleutians with about 1.5 tons of salmon. High-seas driftnetting is illegal under international treaty.

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