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Argentina fires on Chinese vessel ‘fishing illegally’

February 25, 2018

In this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 photo released by Argentina's Coast Guard, a soldier fires at the Chinese fishing boat named Jing Yuan 626 in Argentine waters. The operation was called off by Argentina's foreign ministry after the vessel was chased for nearly eight hours, according to Argentina's prefecture. (Argentine Coast Guard via AP)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s coast guard said it fired on a Chinese boat illegally fishing in its waters before embarking on an almost eight hour chase to capture it.

Nobody was reportedly injured and no fishermen were detained.

The Argentine Naval Prefecture said in a statement Friday that its officers fired shots at the Jing Yuan 626 after the vessel was caught illegally fishing in the country’s exclusive economic zone.

The Chinese embassy in Argentina did not immediately provide a statement about the incident, which occurred Thursday after four other vessels also flying under a Chinese flag attempted to ram into coast guard boats.

A decision was then made to “carry out machine-gun and cannon fire” and impede the vessel’s ability to navigate, the coast guard said.

In video footage released Saturday, an Argentine maritime officer can be heard warning the Jing Yuan 626 before it is fired upon.

“You’re responsible for the safety of your crew and your ship. You are about to receive direct fire on the bow part of your ship,” the officer says via radio.

He then says: “Bow, command bridge. Are we ready? Okey, free fire one shot to the boat’s bow over waterline.”

The vessel managed to escape after the foreign ministry called off the operation following a nearly eight hour chase.

Fishing boats have been involved in various incidents within Argentina’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the past. In 2016, a Chinese fishing vessel with 32 crew members aboard was reportedly sunk by Argentine authorities after it attempted to flee to international waters. Earlier this month, the coast guard detained a Spanish ship carrying more than 705,000 pounds (320,000 kilos) of fish caught illegally.

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Associated Press writer Victor Caivano in Buenos Aires contributed to this report.

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