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Three dead bodies were found in an illegal fishing boat that recently went aground at Paona Island, 200km north of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The incident took place on December 10, but reporting was delayed due to the remote location.

The corpses were hidden among tuna, stashed in the freezer on the second deck of the boat, ABC News reported.

Investigators hope the frozen fish will help slow down the decomposition of bodies in the damaged freezer, at least until they are identified.

Bougainville disaster coordinator, Frank Lacey, has said the deceased appeared Asian.

According to Lacey, the remaining crew of the ship attempted to destroy the vessel before escaping.

He said: “They tried to burn the ship. They do this all the time. But it did not get ablaze, it’s only the top part of the ship that’s been burnt.”

Illegal tuna fishing is not unusual in the area, and the crew may have fled to a “mothership” for safety.

ABC news was informed by a source that the vessel was tracked to a Chinese owner who was then contacted.

However, the PNG National Maritime Safety Authority revealed that the ship in question was actually declared lost at sea earlier in June this year.

Locals were warned not to get fish from the fridge, as that is common practice when it comes to other abandoned vessels.

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