Australia toasts success in illegal fishing battle Published: 04 September, 2007
AUSTRALIAN, State and Territory fisheries ministers have met in Darwin to confirm their unity against illegal foreign fishing in Australias northern waters and to discuss the roll out of last years Federal Governments budget package.
The Australian Government was represented by Senator Eric Abetz, Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, and Senator David Johnston, Minister for Justice and Customs.
The northern states and territory were represented by the Western Australian Minister for Fisheries, Jon Ford, the Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries, Chris Natt.
Last year the Australian Government invested more than $388.9 million to combat illegal foreign fishing in Australias northern waters, with very positive results. For the first six months of this year, the number of sightings of illegal foreign fishing vessels in Australias northern waters was down by 90 per cent compared with the same period last year, despite a 10 percent increase in aerial surveillance.
Ministers were pleased with the substantial drop in illegal foreign fishing activity in northern Australia since mid 2006 and acknowledged the success of the Australian Governments increased enforcement and surveillance presence in northern Australia, as well as outreach programs in Indonesia, in contributing to this outcome.
Ministers also noted collaborative measures between governments against illegal foreign fishing incursions which have contributed to these positive outcomes.
Ministers agreed to explore the possibility of re-allocating funds, which may not now be required for downstream processing of apprehended illegal fishers due to the sharply reduced numbers, into tackling the issue of so-called ghost nets left in Australian waters by illegal fishermen from past years.
Ministers noted concerns from Western Australia about sustainability issues in the 1974 Memorandum of Understanding Box off north-west Australia. The Australian Government confirmed that discussions had been held with Indonesia on the issue in order that more effective measures are put in place to ensure only traditional fishers from Roti, South Sulawesi and East Java access the fishery. It was noted that the Australian and Indonesian Governments have committed to undertake joint research into the current state of the fishery. The Australian Government committed to keep pursuing the issue and to involve West Australia in developing any future management plan for the area.
The Australian Government committed to maintaining the current levels of surveillance, enforcement and outreach programmes. All Governments agreed to continue monitoring the number of illegal foreign fishing vessels, and review the existing enforcement and penalty arrangements by September 2008.
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