Four Vietnamese fishermen were deported from the Solomon Islands on Thursday after being convicted of illegal fishing and trespassing in that country’s territorial waters.
They are the first of 40 Vietnamese fishermen from three Vietnamese fishing boats to be sent home after they were arrested in March for fishing illegally off a reef system about 50 kilometers (27 nautical miles) south of Rennell Island, the Solomon Star reported.
The remaining crew will be flown home some time next week depending on airline bookings, local media cited Chris Akosawa, an immigration officer, as saying.
Akosawa said detaining the men had been a financial burden on the Solomon Islands.
Each crew member was fined $100, which was paid by family members and the Vietnamese government.
The captains of the detained Vietnamese fishing vessels will remain in the Solomon Islands awaiting trial. They are facing charges that include illegal entry into sovereign waters and processing fish for export without a license.
Fines for their offenses range from $12,000 to $1.5 million.
The Vietnamese Embassy in Australia, also in charge of affairs on the island nation, earlier pledged protection for the Vietnamese citizens by working with local authorities.
Vietnam is facing a strong pressure from Pacific countries about its fishermen repeatedly poaching marine resources. The list of affected countries includes the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
In March alone, 50 other fishermen were fined $6,300-47,000 each for illegally harvesting sea cucumbers in Papua New Guinea.