ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Fishing boats escorted by a Coast Guard cutter and aircraft entered a disputed area of the Bering Sea Monday and began retrieving crab pots abandoned when one vessel was pursued by Soviet craft.
Two Soviet vessels were sighted Monday, but neither interfered with the recovery operation, said Coast Guard spokesman Glenn Rosenholm in Juneau.
The 378-foot cutter Midgett, armed with a 5-inch gun and .50-caliber machine guns, escorted the fishing vessels Katie K, Arctic Wind and Aleutian Mariner through rain and fog to the area 160 miles west of St. Matthew Island, where more than 150 pots were dropped. A Coast Guard surveillance plane flew overhead.
The 108-foot Katie K was among about 60 boats fishing for tanner crab west and northwest of St. Matthew Island when it was approached Wednesday by two Soviet vessels, the Coast Guard said.
One Soviet ship warned the Katie K it was fishing in Soviet waters and tried to come alongside. The other fired flares and started lowering its small boat.
The Katie K headed for Alaska and the two Soviet boats pursued it for an hour and 40 minutes.
Ownership of the region has been disputed since Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867.