Australian navy to shoot at fish poachers Published: 08 December, 2006
AUSTRALIA’S navy will be allowed to fire on illegal fishing boats under tough new measures to deter poachers, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has said.
According to Reuters, Nelson said he approved the new rules of engagement because poachers were taking more risks to avoid arrest by the navy, which has several patrol boats, a frigate and air force support hunting for illegal fishing boats.
The vast majority of illegal vessels come from neighbouring Indonesia.
“Our patrol boats will be allowed to fire directly to disable a vessel which is ignoring orders and which is seeking to escape apprehension, and which is indeed threatening our navy and our people,” Nelson told parliament.
Nelson said illegal fishing boats were increasingly sophisticated and some were engaging in dangerous measures, such as using large sharpened poles and throwing “missiles” to avoid arrest.
He said he asked for the stronger rules of engagement after an Australian sailor was left hanging from the stern of an illegal fishing boat as it tried to escape.
The navy has captured a record 357 illegal fishing boats since January in waters off the northern and north-west coast. Many of the illegal fishermen were hunting sharks for their lucrative fins.
Under Australian laws, all captured illegal fishing boats are impounded and later destroyed, while their captains face hefty fines and jail terms.
Indonesian boat crews say they are being locked out of traditional fishing grounds by Canberra’s tough stance.
The government in May announced an extra A$500 million ($394 million) to boost security around its remote northern border with extra surveillance flights and sea patrols.
Australia and Indonesia have also agreed to joint naval border patrols, to crack down on illegal fishing and people smuggling from Indonesia, as part of a new security treaty signed on Nov. 13.
Nelson said the new rules would also include the use of tear gas and pepper spray.
“It is extremely important that anybody who comes to this country seeking to steal our fish and breach our sovereignty knows they will be met with a very strong, disciplined Australian navy,” he said.
www.fishupdate.com is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.