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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

14 November 2002

Toothfish - Australia Achieves Commitment from CITES for Greater Protection and Withdraws Nomination


The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today expressed concern that illegal trade in toothfish is the single greatest threat to the survival of existing stocks, and to the long-term sustainability of the legitimate Australian toothfish industry.

Australia has shown strong global leadership in two recent international forums to combat pirate fishing in toothfish - the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) held in Hobart last week and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

"As I indicated in June, it was my hope that even though the effort by Australia to nominate the species under CITES was unlikely to be successful to begin with, the domestic and international debate it will foster will raise awareness of the issue and put pressure on the toothfish pirates.

Australia has withdrawn its nomination of the toothfish onto the appendices of CITES and instead opted to accept a strong resolution to give further protection for the toothfish against illegal trade in the species.

"I believe we have made significant progress towards our objectives. On withdrawing our nomination to list toothfish with CITES we succeeded through the process in putting toothfish and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing on the global agenda and gaining a strong resolution. This will not only help protect the toothfish from becoming endangered through illegal fishing, but will also protect endangered migratory bird species that are caught indiscriminately as bycatch by the toothfish pirates," Dr Kemp said.

This was recognised by CITES in committee in passing an unprecedented resolution that called for the CITES members trading in toothfish to:

The resolution also called on CCAMLR to consider further cooperation with CITES.

"The innovation of using the global reach of CITES to provide complementary support to CCAMLR which is a regional body which provides regional regulation of commercial fishing was too difficult for most countries to accept at its first exposure," Dr Kemp said.

"However, these are early days and what we are doing is trying to protect a species that is at risk of becoming threatened due to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. To this end, Australia supports the strong commitment by all CCAMLR Members to do everything necessary to eliminate pirate fishing for toothfish and to ensure its conservation."

Australia had nominated toothfish for listing on Appendix II of CITES. If CITES had agreed to this listing it would have extended trade controls on toothfish to a further 136 countries which are not members of CCAMLR to help stamp out trade in illegally caught fish.

The CITES trade controls proposed by Australia were to implement the CCAMLR measures already adopted by the 24 member CCAMLR Commission.

Australia is strongly committed to the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources, and to CCAMLR as the management body responsible for regulating fishing for these species, including toothfish. However, it is becoming apparent that greater effort is required to curb the irresponsible behaviour of pirate fishers.

We were disappointed that CCAMLR this year did not agree to Australia's proposal to establish a centralised Vessel Monitoring System, and opposition by members of CCAMLR to Australia's nomination of toothfish to CITES was regrettable.

"Nonetheless, we continue to be strongly committed to work within CCAMLR to strengthen its measures to combat illegal fishing. In doing so we will continue to promote a centralised vessel monitoring system as an essential tool to manage toothfish fishing," said Dr Kemp.

In particular, Australia notes that at their recent CCAMLR meeting, every member undertook to do everything necessary to eliminate illegal fishing for toothfish and to ensure its conservation, in accordance with the recent commitment at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to act urgently to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015 at the latest.

"Rather than seeing this as a setback, Australia views this as a predictable stage in the development of innovative and creative approaches to tackle the serious problem of pirate fishing for toothfish," Dr Kemp said.

Australia will monitor progress within CCAMLR to allow the Government to review its position on complementary action between CCAMLR and CITES.

Australia expects to see clear progress on implementing effective measures to eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. We believe there is virtue in using all available means to strengthen the global community's ability to stamp out illegal fishing.

Our resolve to seek increased regional and global action to eliminate pirate fishing is not diminished.

Media contact:
Catherine Job Dr Kemp's office (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia