Fishing in a Marine Park? Look Again.

After our recent post Deciphering Suspicious Behavior: It’s not always what it seems, we thought it would be insightful to post a few examples of vessel behavior that looked suspect, but turned out to be easily explained on closer inspection.

Often, a look at the other vessels in the area can help explain what’s going on.

In this case, the fishing vessel Glory Pacific No. 1 was seen moving back and forth over a large swath of ocean within the boundaries of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), a 150,000 square mile marine park where all fishing is prohibited.

In the days before the incursion, the vessel had transited on a straight path through PIPA on her way to the island nation of Tuvalu. Peaceful transit through the protected area is allowed. But when she left Tuvalu again, she took a direct course to the southeast corner of PIPA where she motored around in a pattern of figure eights and circles.

This drew the attention of officials in Kiribati, the island nation in whose waters PIPA lies. The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development initiated an investigation.

Click on the image below to see the video of her path on the map:

The investigation quickly revealed that the Glory Pacific No. 1 had been on an authorized search and rescue mission that had simply not been properly documented. Her sister ship, the Glory Pacific No. 8, had also been fishing outside of PIPA when a fire broke out in the crew quarters and quickly spread through the vessel. With the rapid spread of the fire and the presence of helicopter fuel on board, the crew was concerned about an explosion and evacuated to life rafts to await rescue at a safe distance. The image above shows the vessel on fire as viewed from a Coast Guard Helicopter.

Click on the image below to watch the video in which the Glory Pacific No. 1 races toward the location of the Pacific Glory No. 8 as its track disappears from the map.

But, even a simple story like this is not as straightforward as it seems. To get the full picture often requires a look at all the vessels in the area. The incident report from Shipwreck log reveals that the Glory Pacific No. 1 did not actually arrive on the scene in time for the rescue. That honor fell to the crew of the fishing vessel Lomalo, which picked up the wayward fishermen as their floundering ship burned and sank. All crew members survived.

After searching the area, the Glory Pacific No. 1 rendezvoused with the Lomalo to retrieve the wayward crew. Watch the progression of all three vessel tracks by clicking on the image below.

You can also go to this view on the live Global Fishing Watch Map (You’ll need to be registered before this link will work.)

While you’re watching, note the final segment of vessel tracks when the Glory Pacific No. 1 and the Lomalo meet up. If we didn’t know the whole story, we might be inclined to suspect the two vessels were meeting to conduct an illegal transshipment.

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