3 Feb 2006

Vanuatu fisheries director critical of reporting of Chinese vessel story

4:33 pm on 3 February 2006

A controversy has developed between Vanuatu's department of fisheries and the media covering the arrest and release of three Chinese fishing boats over alleged illegal fishing.

Two of the boats were reported to be fishing in the waters of Penama Province without valid fishing license while one had a license but it was not onboard at the time of their arrests.

The director of Fisheries, Moses Amos, has criticised the Daily Post which reported that the boats were released despite confirmation from the commander of the patrol boat that some vessel had no valid licenses.

Mr Amos said the vessels had pleaded guilty in court and were released for breaching the license conditions.

The Daily Post also claims the Chinese ambassador in Vanuatu had pressured authorities into releasing the vessels in time for Chinese New Year celebrations.

China is a major donor to Vanuatu and recently invited the Prime Minister and family as well as other ministers to China as guests of the Chinese government.