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Media Release

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment

ANTARCTIC FISH POACHERS BEING WATCHED


19 June 1998

The Howard Government is stepping up the fight against illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean with the help of both the fishing industry and conservation groups.

Senator Ian Macdonald, Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, has announced a $40 000 contribution to ISOLFICH (International Southern Ocean Longline Fishing Information Clearing House).

ISOLFICH - a joint initiative of the fishing industry and conservation groups - will play a key role in efforts to stop illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean by:

Senator Macdonald says no-one should underestimate the potential damage being done by illegal fishing.

"The impacts go well beyond damage to fish stocks. Poachers are stripping valuable fisheries in Australian territorial waters, and huge numbers of rare seabirds are dying because longlines are used indiscriminately", Senator Macdonald said.

"The Government, the fishing industry and conservation groups share a common interest in protecting the Southern Ocean ecosystem. Illegal fishing is an international problem and ISOLFICH's monitoring and information exchange activities will complement the Government's ongoing efforts to combat this major environmental problem," he said.

In October 1997 and in February this year, RAN vessels successfully apprehended vessels suspects of fishing illegally off Heard Island.

"The job is not over and the Government will maintain its vigilance in the region. But our efforts alone cannot successfully combat the serious problem of illegal fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean. I am delighted that industry and community groups want to assist us", he said.

"Raising public awareness of the nature of the problem in the countries involved in catching and trading these valuable fish is a priority. Because of its worldwide links ISOLFICH is well placed to assist this effort."

The ISOLFICH initiative will be jointly supported by the Australian Antarctic Division and the Natural Heritage Trust.

For more information contact James Shevlin on 0417 717 935.

Senator Macdonald will announce the grant at the ISOLFICH Office at 9.30 AM, Friday 19th June 1998 at the 1st Floor, 148b Elizabeth St Hobart.

Commonwealth of Australia