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NZ goes to Interpol over rogue trawler

13:28 Fri Dec 6 2013

New Zealand has for the first time used its powers to ask Interpol to search for a fishing trawler that is believed to have been fishing illegally in the Southern Ocean.

A joint effort with Australia and Norway has seen Interpol issue a "purple notice" for the trawler known as Thunder, which is believed to be fishing for Patagonian toothfish around Antarctica.

The 62-metre and 1175-tonne ship has never been known to fish in New Zealand waters, but New Zealand has sought Interpol help because of its obligations under international treaties.

"Thunder has been operating under a number of names and flags over several years and we believe this is being done to avoid been caught violating international laws and conventions," says the Ministry for Primary Industry's Gary Orr.

The 44-year-old trawler has previously gone by the names Wuhan 4 and Kuko under a Mongolian flag, but in April this year was named Thunder under a Nigerian flag.

The identity changes allow it to avoid sanctions such as denial of fishing permits and permission to enter ports.

The Interpol purple notice means officials will be on the lookout for not only the ship, but also information about who owns, operates and profits from the Thunder.

Interpol believes the ship's owners may have made as much as $US60($NZ73) million from illegal fishing since it was blacklisted by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources in 2006.

Interpol is also looking for another vessel, the Snake, which is also believed to be fishing illegally.