A court in New Caledonia has jailed three Vietnamese captains for illegal fishing in its waters.
The three men's so-called blue boats were detained at the beginning of the week off the northern island of Belep and their illegal catch was seized.
Two of the men were jailed for eight months and one for 10 because he had been caught a second time.
Their boats were ordered to be confiscated.
However before the trial, two of their three boats, with 40 crew onboard, which had been escorted to Noumea, were found to have fled on Thursday morning.
Because of technical problems, no French naval ship could be used for a pursuit but aircraft on Friday spotted the escaped poachers' boats about 400 kilometres to the west of Noumea.
The Australian authorities have been advised about the boats entering the Coral Sea.
Before their escape, New Caledonia planned to repatriate the 40 Vietnamese men on board the boats.