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 News :. Armed officials to board toothfish poacher

Armed South African officials were awaiting dawn today for another attempt to board a Uruguayan ship chased for 20 days through Antarctic seas on suspicion of poaching the rare Patagonian toothfish.

A South African salvage tug, the John Ross, came alongside the Uruguayan-flagged Viarsa late on Tuesday, but waves of up to 10 m and heavy snow prevented a boarding, according to Australian officials who have led the high-seas chase.

"We will be following the Viarsa closely until tomorrow morning when further operations may occur," Australian Fisheries Minister Ian Macdonald told reporters.

The Viarsa, suspected of illegally fishing for the fish - also known as Chilean sea bass - has been pursued by an Australian customs vessel through treacherous Antarctic waters since 7 August, when it was first spotted in a remote Australian fisheries zone.

Overnight the powerful John Ross tug, which was hired by Australia and carries armed South African fisheries officials, and a British fisheries vessel based at the Falkland Islands, joined Australia's Southern Supporter in pursuit of the Viarsa, which is believed to be trying to reach Uruguay. Earlier today, the vessels were about 1,800 nautical miles southwest of Cape Town.

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