The Chinese Embassy in Canberra confirmed yesterday that 18 Chinese crew members had been detained in Darwin, capital of Australia's Northern Territory, after their fishing boat was intercepted by an Australian Defense ship.
Australian authorities said the fishermen were caught for having allegedly poached up to 15 tons of fish from Australian waters.
Their vessel, registered in Indonesia, was intercepted near the Wessel Islands, northeast of Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, on Tuesday, and was escorted to the Darwin harbor Thursday morning, the embassy said in a statement.
All the 18 crew members had been taken to Darwin's Northern Immigration Detention Facility, where they were being held pending further inquiries, the statement said.
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority said it was investigating whether the crew had been fishing illegally.
The embassy's statement quoted the captain of the vessel as saying that their boat came across a mechanical failure while fishing in Indonesian waters and had floated near the maritime border between Indonesia and Australia for three days before it was intercepted.
The captain said no fishing took place during the three days.
Staff from the embassy have visited the detained crew members and passed on the embassy's concern over the issue to the Australian fishing authority, expressing the hope that the incident would be dealt with properly.
(Xinhua News Agency August 26, 2006)