16 December 2015

Joint media release from the Australian Border Force and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority

The Australian Border Force (ABF) has bolstered its maritime security presence in far north Queensland by stationing a Bay Class patrol vessel permanently in the Torres Strait region.

This move paid off immediately when on 11 December, ABF Cutter (ABFC) Roebuck Bay and ABFC Cape St. George apprehended three fishing vessels from Papua New Guinea (PNG) operating illegally on Warrior Reef in the Torres Strait.

Maritime Border Command (MBC) working in cooperation with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), as well as counterparts from PNG, were able to successfully apprehend the vessels as they conducted fishing in the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone and inside the Torres Strait Protected Zone.

A total of 28 PNG fishers from across the three vessels were apprehended with   approximately 350 kilograms of Beche de Mer (sea cucumber), five kilograms of squid, three kilograms of octopus and a range of fishing equipment on board.  The 28 fishers were transferred to the care of the Royal PNG Constabulary and PNG National Fisheries Authority following a rendezvous at sea with ABFC Cape St George.

The PNG Government will now undertake further investigations to determine any charges that may be laid against the individuals.

Commander MBC, Rear Admiral Michael Noonan, said that the cooperation between Australian agencies and their international counterparts demonstrates a united effort in preventing fishing vessels fishing illegally.

“Exclusion and protection zones are established to protect sensitive marine environments, and through these ongoing efforts we can ensure that we preserve these areas from illegal fishing,” Rear Admiral Noonan said.

While one of the vessels was handed to PNG authorities to assist in the transport of the fishers back to PNG, the other two remain in the custody of AFMA.

AFMA General Manager of Operations Peter Venslovas said that the partnership between AFMA, the ABF, and Australia’s regional partners is vital to combatting illegal fishing and protecting these reefs.

“AFMA continues to work closely with both our Australian and international counterparts to not only apprehend IUU fishing vessels, but deter operations from entering Australian waters,” Mr Venslovas said.

“Through regular surveillance and capacity building activities with our regional partners, we have seen the number of foreign IUU fishing vessels decrease in recent years.”

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

Media contact: Immigration and Border Protection (02) 6264 2244