Image of the apprehended Vietnamese illegal fishing vessel being destroyed

Illegal fish pirates jailed

Joint media release from Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Australian Border Force and Parks Australia

Fifteen illegal Vietnamese fishers faced the harsh reality of illegal fishing in Australian waters in the Darwin Magistrates Court on Tuesday with several crew sentenced to jail time.

The 15 crew were all sentenced to two months suspended sentences for illegally fishing from a vessel caught on 6 February 2017, near Lihou Reef in the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve, off Cairns. The Master received a suspended six month sentence. In addition, seven of the crew were found to be repeat offenders and received two months imprisonment for breach of their good behaviour bonds. The vessel used by the fishers was confiscated and destroyed.

A joint effort by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), the Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency task force within the Australian Border Force (ABF), and Parks Australia resulted in the apprehension and subsequent court case.

Following investigations by AFMA and Parks Australia, the fishers were found guilty for committing offences against the Australian Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

General Manager Fisheries Operations Peter Venslovas said that the consequences faced by these illegal fishers further reinforces Australia’s message on deterring and preventing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities.

“Those who seek to illegally fish in Australian waters will be caught,” Mr Venslovas said.

“As demonstrated by this court case, those seeking to take advantage of Australia’s well-managed fisheries will face the harsh consequences, including of jail time.”

Acting Commander MBC, Stephen Alexander reinforces that harsh penalties will face anyone seeking to exploit our natural resources.

“Our ABF and Australian Defence Force surveillance aircraft and mariners constantly monitor our Exclusive Economic Zone to the north-east of Australia, sometimes several hundred nautical miles from the coastline. We have recently stepped up our detection and response efforts in collaboration with other maritime law enforcement agencies in our region including France and Papua New Guinea to ensure we will detect and intercept illegal fishers so as to ultimately protect our resources and pristine ecology and ensure compliance to our laws,” Acting Commander Alexander said.

“If there are vessels that are fishing illegally in our waters, we will catch them and fishers will be prosecuted.”

Parks Australia Manager for Marine Parks Compliance, Scott Clementz, said Lihou Reef had been a sanctuary since 1982.

“This pristine ecosystem is a very special place and harsh penalties are needed to ensure a strong message is sent to illegal fishers entering this marine habitat,” Mr Clementz said.

“Illegal fishing threatens to deny current and future generations the chance to experience these natural assets.

“Parks Australia welcomes the convictions and will continue to pursue those who undermine the protection of Australia’s marine reserves.”

More information on how Australia is working to combat illegal fishing can be found at afma.gov.au.