11 Feb 2005

20 Chinese fishing boats arrested in PNG appear to have had licences to fish off Milne Bay

4:21 pm on 11 February 2005

Provincial Government officials in Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea are still trying to determine whether 20 Chinese fishing boats they have impounded were fishing illegally.

The 20 vessels and their 340 odd crew were arrested by armed police earlier this week.

The provincial administrator, Henry Bailasi, says they have since been notified by the National Fisheries Authority that the Chinese boats had been granted licences for a trial period.

He says this agreement had never been conveyed to the provincial government.

But Mr Bailasi says despite the licences, the boats did break some laws, including apparently fishing within nine kilometres of the coast.

The Post Courier newspaper says that the Governor of Milne Bay, Tim Neville, has raised concerns about the boats net fishing near reefs and that the vessels were carrying pets which could introduce pests to the islands.