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Seattle Coast Guard Seizes Rat-Infested Vessel Off Coast of Alaska

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Recently, a vessel carrying 30 tons of squid was seized, carrying a high volume of rats. (credit: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Recently, a vessel carrying 30 tons of squid was seized, carrying a high volume of rats. (credit: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

SEATTLE, Wash. (CBS Seattle) – Calamari, anyone?

The U.S. Coast Guard in Seattle seized a vessel carrying 30 tons of squid last month off the coast of Alaska, one that was unregistered with any nation and practicing drift-net fishing, and worse, was infested with rats, according to the Seattle Times.

The Bangun Perkasa returned earlier this week after the Coast Guard seized the ship, which was taking part in a common trend among vessels that the United Nations is focusing on eliminating: high-seas drift-net fishing.

“You’ve seen the large drift-net fishing has been outlawed by many countries and the U.N. has basically condemned it as a method of fishing that’s extremely harmful to environment,” NOAA Fishery’s Alaska Region Spokeswoman Julie Speegle told CBS Seattle. NOAA will take custody of the Bangun Perkasa once the rats have been eliminated.

“They did have 10 miles of drift-net trailing behind the vessel. That’s a big net,” Speegle said.

The Bangun Perkasa seizure is the first stateless vessel seized in the Dutch Harbor area since around 2005 or 2006, Speegle added.

The ship, which was intended to dock at Dutch Harbor in Alaska, is expected to go through a remediation process overseen by Magone Marine Service, which specializes in rat remediation of these kinds of vessels.

Coast Guard Spokesman Kip Wadlow told CBS Seattle that Magone’s rat remediation process could take anywhere between a week to 10 days. Soon thereafter, NOAA will further investigate exactly what happened and how the rats got on board. In some cases involving rat infestation of vessels, Wadlow said, some ports may have a high rat population that find its way onto the ships.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) has called for the vessel to be sunk.

“It would send an unambiguous signal that pirate fishing is unacceptable,” Begich said in a written statement to his constituents. “It will prevent this rust bucket from ending up back on the market where it most likely would fall into the hands of some other pirate.”

The vessel has been in possession of the Coast Guard since around Sept. 19. The 22 original crew members on board have been flown to Anchorage, where they are expected to be interviewed about the vessel before being sent back to their home countries.

Though it’s normally somewhat common for rats to be on vessels, this extreme case needs to be eradicated soon, especially considering that the nearby Aleutian Islands are critical areas for nesting birds in the region, said Sue Magone, vice president of Magone Marine Services, which is overseeing the rat remediation process.

“While some of the islands have had rats for a long time, the refuge is working to eradicate rats from all islands,” Magone told CBS Seattle. “They were successful at removing all rats from Rat Island and the birds have started to come back.”

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