Two Vietnamese illegal fishing vessels apprehended in the Coral Sea

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

Two Vietnamese fishing vessels and their crew of 29 men suspected of illegally fishing near Saumarez reef in the Coral Sea marine park have been apprehended.

Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency task force within the Australian Border Force (ABF), working in cooperation with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) apprehended and escorted the vessels to Gladstone, Queensland.

The vessels were originally sighted by an MBC surveillance aircraft on 15 February 2017.

HMAS Bathurst quickly intercepted and boarded the vessels at sea. Both vessels had bêche-de-mer (sea cucumber) on board.

Australian Border Force Cutter Storm Bay was despatched to assist HMAS Bathurst steam the vessels back to Gladstone for their transfer to AFMA.

AFMA and Parks Australia are investigating for breaches of the Australian Fisheries Management Act 1991 and Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Commander MBC Rear Admiral Peter Laver said this is another successful outcome following Australian Government agencies’ concerted efforts to detect and stop illegal fishing in Australian waters.

“The size of Australian’s maritime domain may lead these fishers to believe that our seas are unmonitored and therefore freely available to theft,” Rear Admiral Peter Laver said.

“Our resources, including personnel, water and air-based assets, as well as cutting-edge technology, allow us to monitor and promptly apprehend those in the business of illegal fishing in Australian waters.”

AFMA’s General Manager Operations Peter Venslovas said that these apprehensions further demonstrate Australia’s strong stance against illegal fishing in Australian waters.

“Foreign fishers seeking to take advantage and target our fish resources will be caught and run the risk of being prosecuted and having their boats confiscated and destroyed,” Mr Venslovas said.

“To protect Australia’s well-managed fisheries, it is critical for Australian authorities to continue working together to deter and combat illegal fishing.”

Parks Australia’s Manager for Marine Parks Compliance, Scott Clementz, said the plundering of Australian marine parks cannot be tolerated.

“Stopping illegal foreign fishing is essential for the protection of our marine life and marine parks,” Mr Clementz said.

“Parks Australia welcomes the rapid and highly effective response by our partner agencies in responding to these damaging activities.”

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