Australia says seizes two Chinese fishing boats

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SYDNEY, Mar 24 (Reuters) Australia said today that two Chinese trawlers carrying 27 crew have been seized inside its waters and were being taken to Darwin in the country's far north.

The crew will be investigated by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), a government statement said.

The vessels, De Yuan Yu 001 and De Yuan Yu 002, were intercepted by an Australian naval vessel northwest of the Wessels islands early yesterday, said the statement, issued jointly by Australia's Defence, Fisheries and Justice ministries.

Sources from the Chinese embassy in Canberra told China's Xinhua news service that the two vessels were on their way to a nearby refuelling vessel, adding they were in Australian waters due to current and wind factors.

''Thirteen crew were found on board one vessel, 14 on the other, all are People's Republic of China nationals. Each vessel weighs approximately 123 tonnes and is 31 metres in length,'' the Australian government statement said.

''Initial investigations by AFMA officers on board HMAS Ipswich found approximately 4,000 kg of reef fish on board the De Yuan Yu 001, and 3,000 kg on board the De Yuan Yu 002,'' it said.

The two vessels are expected to arrive in Darwin on March 25, the statement said.

REUTERS AD PM1557

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