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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

24 October 2004

Australia takes hard line on southern ocean fishing pirates


Australia will turn up the heat on Southern Ocean fishing pirates at the annual meeting of Antarctic Treaty nations starting in Hobart tomorrow (Monday).

The Minister for Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the Government would seek to secure agreement by member nations of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources to end illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters.

"If the commission is to be really effective in its role as protector of Southern Ocean marine life it needs to be pragmatic in adopting solutions that will ensure fish stocks are not wiped out," Senator Campbell said.

"The Australian Government has committed to delivering on its promise to stamp out illegal fishing in Antarctic waters and will provide $89.3 million over two years to improve patrolling in the Southern Ocean."

Senator Campbell said Australia, with co-sponsors New Zealand and the United States, would push for the meeting to adopt a centralised vessel monitoring system to thwart poaching.

"There is already in-principle support from many member countries and there will be a concerted effort to convince others that centralised monitoring of vessels is an essential tool in the fight against illegal fishing," he said.

Senator Campbell said a centralised system would allow members to independently verify fishing vessels' positions and movements from information fed to the commission's secretariat in Hobart.

The proposal requires agreement by all 24 commission members to come into force.

"One of the target species, Patagonian toothfish which is found only in the Southern Ocean, is highly prized on dinner tables throughout the world, but only proper management of the fishery will ensure it survives," Senator Campbell said.

"The management measures observed by licensed fishing operators are being undermined by the unconscionable actions of poachers.

"Australia has a strong record of action against illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean. In the past four years we have apprehended five vessels. The most recent was the capture of the Uruguayan registered Maya V in January this year and the charging of all on board.

"In May, the French caught the Honduras registered Apache in Southern Ocean waters adjacent to Australia's zone."

Senator Campbell said Australia would also support improvements to the Catch Documentation Scheme for toothfish to make it difficult for unlawful catches to be landed and sold.

"We also will be encouraging member nations to support a proposal for the so-called ships-of-shame register to be available publicly so that countries will be able to identify those vessels known to be engaged in illegal fishing activities in the Southern Ocean."

The Australian delegation to commission is led by the Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Dr Tony Press. The delegation includes representatives of Commonwealth, State and Territory Government departments, conservation groups and the fishing industry who together contribute to scientific and policy advice.

The meeting ends on November 5.

Commonwealth of Australia