Taiwanese vessels continue to drag the North Pacific with huge drift nets, illegally capturing salmon for sale back to the United States and Canada, authorities said in announcing the arrest of two men.
U.S. and Canadian authorities on Monday said the two were accused of taking part in a plot in which illegally caught salmon would have been shipped from Thailand and China, laundered through Chile and sent to U.S. markets."For those who steal our fish on the high seas . . . and have the gall to try to sell it back to us, Canada and the U.S. have a simple message: Leave our fish alone," said Richard Carson of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
It is illegal to use drift nets - in which a single boat may drag a 40-mile-long net through the ocean - to capture certain marine species, including salmon, in international waters.
"These nets kill everything within their reach, including sea birds and small mammals. Drift net fishing is a virtual strip mining of the ocean waters," said U.S. Attorney Mike McKay.
Drift net fishing in the 120,000-square-mile area of the North Pacific has contributed to a sharp drop in the number of salmon returning to the Pacific Northwest, officials said.
Because of complaints from environmentalists and American officials, the countries the drift net vessels come from - mainly Taiwan, Japan and South Korea - agreed in 1989 to crack down on illegal salmon fishing.
On Sunday, Hermes Leon, 43, a Chilean living in Miami, was arrested at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Kunioki Takayama, 47, a Japanese citizen and the alleged mastermind of the scheme, was arrested at his San Francisco home.
Both were ordered held without bail Monday.