Border Protection Command (BPC) together with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has apprehended two foreign fishing vessels suspected of illegally ‘blast fishing’ in Australian waters off Broome (WA) and the Tiwi Islands (NT).
ACV Roebuck Bay, operating under the control of BPC, apprehended a foreign fishing vessel and ten Indonesian fishers at Scott Reef off Broome yesterday.
Explosive materials were found on the boat including a length of detonator cord and 15 aluminium tubes (5-6cm long) packed with cotton wool and a dark powdery substance. Other suspected blasting devices where found in the water directly beneath the vessel.
Over 320kg of fish was seized from the vessel including dried fish, fresh fish, sea cucumbers (beche-de merrepan), shark flesh and fins, and sea snails (trochus).
As part of a joint border patrol with Indonesian authorities, the ACV Botany Bay apprehended a second foreign fishing vessel near Evans Shoal – north of the Tiwi Islands with ten Indonesian fishers yesterday. Explosive detonators and 200kg of fish, mainly Red Snapper, were seized from the fishermen.
David Ollerton, Manager BPC (Darwin) stressed the importance of deterring illegal foreign fishers and commended the officers involved in the joint operation.
“Illegal foreign fishing is a serious international maritime issue and BPC together with AFMA remain committed to stamping out these activities and safeguarding our environment, our natural resources, and our borders,” Mr Ollerton said.
“We are successfully deterring this threat. Apprehensions in Australia’s waters have fallen from 367 vessels and 2,961 illegal foreign fishers in 2005–06 to just 12 vessels and 68 fishers in 2011-2012.”
AFMA General Manager of Operations, Peter Venslovas said this latest apprehension shows that cooperative efforts between Australian and Indonesia are yielding strong results in combating illegal fishing in the region.
“Blast fishing is highly destructive to the marine environment and any suspected blast fishing will be dealt with seriously”, Mr Venslovas said.
The vessel apprehended at Scott Reef will now be escorted to Broome while the vessel apprehended near Tiwi Islands will be taken to Darwin. AFMA will further investigate the activities of these vessels.
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