Illegal foreign fishing vessels boarded and destroyed

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

Cooperation between the Australian Border Force (ABF), Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and Maritime Border Command (MBC), a joint agency task force enabled by both the ABF and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has disrupted illegal foreign fishing activity in the Ashmore Reef Marine Park, approximately 840 kilometres west of Darwin.

In a dedicated operation over a weekend in May, ABF Cutter Cape Nelson intercepted and boarded three Indonesian fishing vessels that were detected undertaking illegal fishing in the Marine Park.

Once intercepted, approximately 179 kilograms of trepang (also known as sea cucumber) and five kilograms of fresh fish was located and seized along with forfeited fishing equipment from all three vessels. One vessel was also seized and disposed of at sea, in accordance with Australian law. The crew were transferred to the two remaining vessels and were escorted outside of the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

MBC Commander, Rear Admiral Mark Hill, said that while illegal foreign fishing attempts had decreased in recent years thanks to a strong presence and action from Australian government agencies, the operation proves that the threat of illegal foreign fishing in Australian waters remains. 

“Across the region, foreign fishing fleets are moving from their usual fishing grounds to explore and exploit new ones,’ Rear Admiral Hill said.

“This operation highlights the critical work undertaken by the ABF, AFMA and MBC to protect the Australian maritime border by safeguarding our marine wildlife and natural resources. Our message to unauthorised foreign fishers is simple. We will intercept you, you will lose your catch, your equipment and possibly even your vessel,” Rear Admiral Hill said.

“We are committed to protecting Australia’s maritime domain from a range of potential threats, including illegal attempts to fish in our marine parks,” Rear Admiral Hill said.

AFMA’s General Manager Operations Peter Venslovas said the outcome was a positive one.

“The seizure of fishing gear and disposal of vessels serves as a reminder to those seeking to exploit Australia’s marine resources that Australian authorities have zero tolerance for such illegal activity,” General Manager Venslovas said.

Media contact: Australian Border Force (02) 6264 2211

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