AFMA

Thunder Struck

Last updated 30 April 2013

The foreign fishing vessel 'Thunder' in the ocean

Photograph of the FV Wuhan (formally FV Thunder and FV Kuko taken by an Australian Customs and Border Protection aircraft on 15 April 2013.

Attempts by an illegal foreign fishing vessel, the ‘Thunder’, to offload millions of dollars’ worth of illegal catch in south-east Asia, have been thwarted by a strike force team made up of Australian, Malaysian and Indonesian authorities.

This boat has been using the alphabet technique – changing its name and flag – to deceive authorities and avoid detection.

However, Australia has remained one step ahead and has been able to track the vessel to south-east Asia – warning authorities and requesting that the boat be denied access to port.

After being refused access to the Malaysian port of Penang, the boat then tried to dock in Indonesia where it was boarded by Indonesian authorities assisted by officers from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). The boat was refused access and other ports in the region are on alert.

AFMA’s General Manager of Operations, Peter Venslovas, said that this is an excellent result in combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“Illegal fishing is becoming less viable. By cutting off the market end of illegal fishing operations, those responsible are finding it increasingly difficult to offload their catch, which will hurt them where it hurts most – in their hip pocket.”

Since 2007, AFMA has been working hard to increase regional engagement and co-operation and has promoted and engaged with a network of ten countries including Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia to share information and deny port access to vessels suspected of being involved in IUU activity.

Mr Venslovas said that this strong regional co-operation has made a big difference in creating an international deterrence for illegal foreign fishing operations.

“Taking collaborative action against IUU fishers demonstrates to the world that the region is working together to ensure sustainable fisheries into the future.”

Since 2004, no IUU boats have been detected in Australian southern waters but a threat remains from vessels undertaking IUU fishing outside of Australian waters. These vessels fish in the Southern Ocean and use south-east Asian ports to unload their illegal catch and re-supply. The operations are highly organised, mobile and elusive.

In 2012, four IUU vessels were denied entry into ports in Singapore and Malaysia. Three other IUU vessels in the region are currently being monitored in case they seek to access ports.

Contact Rebecca Atkins, AFMA Communications 02 6225 5541 or 0447 942 840 or rebecca.atkins@afma.gov.au.

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