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Naha City tuna boat freed by Micronesia

Date Posted: 2008-11-27

A tuna fishing boat belonging to a Naha City fishermen’s association and its crew has been freed after 40 days in captivity in Micronesia.

The boat had been taken into custody by the Micronesian Federation Coast Guard and charged with violating the federation’s territorial sovereignty on October 9th and 11th. The boat’s captain, Yukihiro Tomoi, said there was “some kin of GPS problem. The GPS made a mistake in measuring the correct location.” The 60-year-old captain said “it happened often, but we didn’t mean to go into territorial water.” Tomoi says he’s been fishing the same waters for more than 20 years and never had fished in Micronesian territorial waters.

A U.S. Coast Guard crew member is the one who reported the boat’s violation to Micronesian authorities. Authorities then apprehended the boat and crew, then demanded payment of ¥100 million in fines and penalties. Captain Tomoi appealed to the government to reduce the amount, saying it was too much. Rebuffed, Tomoi turned to his association’s insurance and to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

A deal was brokered after the Japanese government became involved, and the insurance company made an unspecified settlement. Tomoi praised and thanked the government for stepping in. “I knew that if the Japanese government would take some action, we would be fine,” he said. “I believed it, and it did help.”

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