29 November 2016

Joint media release Department of Immigration and Border Protection and Australian Fisheries Management Authority

Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency task force within the Australian Border Force (ABF), in cooperation with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), apprehended a foreign fishing vessel (FFV) on 19 November 2016 suspected of illegally fishing in Australian waters.

The Vietnamese fishing vessel was detected on 16 November 2016 by an MBC surveillance aircraft, approximately 180 nautical miles north-east of Gladstone, Queensland; inside the Conservation Park Zone of the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve and the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (AEEZ).

Australian Border Force Cutter Cape Wessel responded, embarked and inspected the vessel in the vicinity of Saumarez Reefs. More than three tonne of bêche-de-mer (sea cucumbers) were located on board, with officers observing the FFV crew dumping some of their catch overboard on approach. Diving equipment, including eight air lines, a compressor and navigational equipment were also found on board.

The 13 Vietnamese crew members on board were apprehended, with the vessel and crew being escorted to Cairns for further investigation by AFMA. The crew will be detained while AFMA considers charges under the Australian Fisheries Management Act 1991.

Commander MBC, Rear Admiral Peter Laver, praised another successful multi-agency operation, saying it continues to produce an effective response to the threat posed by illegal fishing.

“Illegal fishing threatens the sustainability of our unique marine environment and we continue to work with our partners to protect Australia’s valuable marine resources,” Rear Admiral Laver said.

“Our surveillance and response capabilities extend throughout the AEEZ to allow us to deter and apprehend illegal activity and foreign vessels seeking to conduct illegal fishing.”

AFMA’s General Manager Fishing Operations, Mr Peter Venslovas, said this most recent apprehension demonstrates that those seeking to do the wrong thing will be caught.

“Illegal fishing undermines the very rules and regulations we have in place to ensure the economic and environmental sustainability of Australia’s fisheries.”

“To protect our valuable and well-managed fisheries AFMA works together with government agencies to ensure that those doing the wrong thing are detected and prosecuted.”

More information on how Australia is working to combat illegal fishing can be found at www.afma.gov.au