By PNG correspondent Liam Cochrane
Three human bodies have been found packed amongst tuna in the freezer of a fishing vessel that ran aground on a remote island of Papua New Guinea.The suspected illegal fishing vessel was found on December 10 at Paona Island, a 45-minute boat ride from Fead Island, which is 200 kilometres north of Bougainville.
Due to the remote location, authorities had only begun launching an investigation mission to the area.
"Local reports coming from the area are that there are three dead bodies in the ship's fridge with some fish they have caught," said Franklin Lacey, Bougainville disaster coordinator, who is leading the investigation team.
Mr Lacey said the deceased were of Asian appearance and may have been crew members.
The identities of the bodies or the ship had not yet been established.
"The occupants of the boat, when it ran aground, they tried to burn it but it did not get ablaze – it's only the top part of the ship that's been burnt," Mr Lacey said.
Mr Lacey said the freezer containing the corpses was still working.
"We've been giving a warnings to the locals not to get the fish from the fridge, which they normally do with other ships that run aground," he said.
Illegal tuna fishing is common in the area and the crew was believed to have fled to a "mothership", acting as a hub for smaller vessels.
An assessment team was expected to leave Bougainville for the remote island on Monday and hand a report to the country's National Maritime Safety Authority, which will lead the recovery of the bodies and the vessel.
"We'll leave it to the NMSA to do the rest, because they could get the fish and dead people off and bury them somewhere," Mr Lacey said.