The sea cucumbers they poached along the way actually are a sort of treasure.

In a shocking development for fans of anime/manga mega-hit One Piece, each and every member of the crew of the seafaring ship Going Merry has been arrested. Almost as surprising is that it wasn’t the Marines, CP9, or any other agents of the World Government that captured the oceanic scofflaws, but the plain old Aomori Maritime Security Department, off the coast of Japan’s Aomori Prefecture.

In total, nine crew members were taken into custody, all men ranging in age from 29 to 53 years old. Those demographics might seem too old and uniformly male for the Straw Hat Pirates, but the arrests aren’t part of the anime pirate saga, and instead are the result of a real-life crime that took place involving an actual six-meter (19.7-foot) pleasure boat named after the One Piece heroes sailing ship, the Going Merry.

At roughly 9 p.m. on March 8, officers from the Maritime Security Department observed divers going over the side of the Going Merry approximately 1.7 kilometers (1.06 miles) southeast of the fishing port in the town of Yomogita. The submarine treasure they were after: sea cucumbers, the “black diamonds” of the ocean, as authorities say the creatures are now called among the criminal undersea underworld.

Sea cucumber poaching has become an increasingly large problem in Japan in recent years, and the high prices they can fetch in illicit overseas trade, particularly to buyers elsewhere in Asia, have made the black diamonds an attractive line of revenue for Japan’s yakuza criminal organizations. On the night of March 8, investigators say the Going Merry crew hauled up 802.5 kilograms (1,769 pounds) of sea cucumbers, which would have a street value of approximately 3.2 million yen (US$30,920).

▼ Sea cucumber weights can vary greatly, but the largest are said to reach a weight of around 10 pounds, meaning the Going Merry crew hauled up at least 150 of these guys.

Five of the nine Going Merry crew were arrested on the spot, with the remaining four escaping into the night. Their victory was short-lived, though, as they too were found and arrested between March 17 and 23.

The poachers are the first to be arrested since the implementation of stricter anti-sea cucumber poaching laws went into effect in Aomori, and so they now face fines of up to 30 million yen, up from the previous maximum of two million. The police are also looking into probable ties to yakuza organizations, which would likely involve additional charges and penalties.

Luffy, Nami, and their cohorts, meanwhile, remain at large.

Source: To-o Nippo via Yahoo! Japan News via Anime News Network/Kim Morrissy
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