Media release from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Australian Border Force and Parks Australia

The master of an Indonesian illegal fishing vessel has been convicted of offences under Australia’s fisheries and environment legislation, after being apprehended for illegally fishing two nautical miles inside the Ashmore Reef Marine Park, in late May.

A repeat offender, the man faced Darwin Local Court last week and was sentenced to eight months imprisonment, suspended after four months, and handed a three-year good behaviour bond.

An Australian Border Force (ABF) surveillance aircraft under the control of Maritime Border Command (MBC) spotted the vessel inside the sanctuary zone on 22 May 2019, approximately 630 km north of Broome, Western Australia. MBC tasked ABF vessel Cape Sorrell to respond to the sighting and observed the crew hauling longline fishing gear and sharks on board.

The crew and their vessel were apprehended in a joint operation by MBC, a multi-agency taskforce within the ABF, and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). Several whole sharks, dry shark flesh and dry shark fin were found on board.

Investigations by AFMA and Parks Australia for breaches of the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 respectively, led to charges being laid against the Master. The six remaining crew are in the process of being repatriated. 

AFMA’s General Manager of Fisheries Operations, Peter Venslovas, said Australian authorities are proactive about protecting Australia’s marine environment from potential risks posed by illegal fishing.

“In addition to prosecuting offenders, we work closely with countries within the south-east Asian region and run education programs to inform fishers of the risks and consequences of illegally fishing in Australian waters,” Mr Venslovas said.

“It is important for us to continue this work so that our fish resources and marine eco systems are protected for the benefit of current and future generations of Australians.”

Commander of Maritime Border Command, Rear Admiral Lee Goddard, said the result clearly highlighted the outcomes that can be achieved by the partner agencies working together within the ABF and Maritime Border Command.

“The ABF is absolutely vigilant when it comes to keeping Australian waters secure, and this conviction shows that anyone who attempts this type of illegal behaviour will face the full force of the law,” Rear Admiral Goddard said.

Parks Australia’s Director of Authorisations and Compliance, Andrew Read said Ashmore Reef Marine Park is a sanctuary for seabirds, shorebirds, marine turtles, dugongs and many other marine species.

Management plans are in place for each of our Australian Marine Parks to conserve and protect the health and biodiversity of habitats and species in our oceans,” Dr Read said.

“All marine users have a responsibility to understand and comply with the management rules when entering Australian Marine Parks. Working closely with our inter-agency partners to investigate and prosecute suspected illegal activity in these areas is important part of enforcing these management protections to ensure the sustainable use and enjoyment of these natural resources for all Australians.”

Media contacts:

Australian Border Force (02) 6264 2244

Australian Fisheries Management Authority 0437 869 860

Parks Australia 0439 582 686