25 May 2018

Media release from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the Australian Border Force

Papua New Guinean (PNG) nationals have been returned to PNG after they were found in the Torres Strait with a catch of mud crabs suspected to have been taken illegally from Australian waters near Saibai Island.

Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency taskforce within the Australian Border Force (ABF), sighted a banana boat and dinghy near Saibai Island during a routine helicopter patrol.

Working alongside the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), MBC tasked HMAS Wollongong to respond and intercept the vessels.

MBC officers boarded the vessels 1.5 nautical miles inside Australian waters and located 20 live mud crabs, 50 dead mud crabs, ten kilograms of trevally, bream, shark and approximately six kilograms of yams on board the banana boat. The catch was returned to the water.

The crew were taken aboard HMASWollongong and handed over to PNG authorities on 24 May 2018. Under the terms of the Torres Strait Treaty, PNG nationals suspected of fishing illegally in Australian waters are repatriated to PNG for processing and possible prosecution.

Due to poor weather conditions, the banana boat was foundered at sea. The dinghy was seized and will be transferred to AFMA for custody.

Commander MBC Rear Admiral Peter Laver said the interception demonstrates the effectiveness of the various resources available to the ABF in the Torres Strait.

“MBC uses a wide range of surveillance and response assets to detect and intercept any illegal activity in the Torres Strait, including close to the border with PNG,” Rear Admiral Laver said.

“We are monitoring our waters 24/7 and are highly responsive to any sign of illegal activity.”

AFMA’s General Manager of Fisheries Operations, Peter Venslovas, said that foreign nationals who take advantage of Australian fish resources will face compliance action and that includes the confiscation of their vessels.

“AFMA, working in collaboration with MBC, are determined to catch those who choose to steal from Australia’s pristine waters, and this latest apprehension serves as a good example of our stance on the matter,” Mr Venslovas said.

“The crew have been repatriated to PNG under the Torres Strait Treaty for processing and investigation by PNG authorities and are likely to be brought before the Daru District court for mention in July 2018.”

Media enquiries:

Australian Fisheries Management Authority media@afma.gov.au or 0437 869 860

Australian Border Force (02) 6264 2244