If you hear Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) muttering, “Shiver me timbers” on Capitol Hill this week, do not be alarmed: He’s a bit preoccupied with a pirate ship back in Alaska.
Begich is asking the U.S. Coast Guard to sink a pirate ship apprehended last month for illegal fishing off the shores of his state. The 22-member crew of the Bangun Perkasa was found to be fishing with illegal drift nets that indiscriminately kill fish, marine mammals and birds in their wake.
On board the ship, Coast Guard officials discovered 30 tons of squid and 30 shark carcasses. Worse, the vessel was infested with rats in violation of a state law barring ships with rats from entering Alaskan waters.
On Monday, the Coast Guard flew the crew to Anchorage for further questioning by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Coast Guard also plans to kill the rats.
Once the rats are dead and fuel is drained from the ship, “The Coast Guard should sink the Bangun Perkasa,” Begich wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp.
Begich said sinking the ship would send a clear signal that illegal pirate fishing is unacceptable to the United States and will not be tolerated.
“It will prevent this rust bucket from ending up back on the market where it most likely would only fall into the hands of some other pirate,” he added.
(Want to bet that Begich had a few toy ships as a kid? Or at least wishes he did?)
Coast Guard spokeswoman Sara Francis said the Coast Guard is considering Begich’s recommendations and plans to hire contractors to kill the rats with live traps and poison. The process should take up to a week.
Coast Guard officials have not said from where the vessel hails or where the crew is from, but the ship’s name is Indonesian and includes part of the name an Indonesian trading company.
Kidding aside, the United States is party to several international treaties banning illegal, unreported and unregulated pirate fishing, a multibillion-dollar global enterprise that supporters say threatens the livelihood of the U.S. fishing industry — a big moneymaker in Alaska.
Still, this might not be a good week to challenge Begich to a game of Battleship.
Staff writer William Branigin contributed to this report.
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