ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A significant population of rats must be removed from a vessel seized for illegal fishing before it will be allowed to dock in Alaska, the Coast Guard said Saturday.
The Guard's staff in Juneau was working on the logistics of getting the 22 crew members off the Bangun Perkasa and dealing with the rats, spokeswoman Sara Francis said. A state law prevents ships with rats from entering Alaska waters.
The boat was seized as a stateless vessel on Sept. 7 for allegedly violating U.S. laws over drift net fishing. When the Coast Guard boarded the ship about 2,600 miles southwest of Kodiak, they retrieved a 10-mile net and found 30 tons of squid and 30 shark carcasses on board, she said.
It also didn't have a valid flag state registration, but the ship's crew initially claimed Indonesia as their flag state.
"When we contacted Indonesia, they said, 'Nope, not ours,'" Francis said. "They became flagless at that point, and that's when we seized them."
Although the Coast Guard stops illegal drift netters on an annual basis, finding a ship that is stateless is relatively unusual, Francis said. "We haven't had a vessel that was stateless for quite some time. I can't think of the last one, and I've been here almost 10 years," she said.
Most vehicles suspected as illegal drift netters are returned to their own country but in this case, Francis said, the Coast Guard suspected the crew was from a mixture of countries and that the ship is not properly registered.
The crew members will be processed by Customs and Border Protection and Department of Homeland Security agents, and then returned to their home countries, she said. The nationalities of the crew members were not immediately known.
Francis said two Guard cutters were escorting the boat to Dutch Harbor, where it was expected to arrive Sunday.
The plan to rid the ship of rats will involve traps and anti-coagulant poison. The process might take up to seven days, she said.
The crew will be off the ship before eradication efforts start," said Joe Meehan with the state Department of Fish and Game.