News and Views

Foreign fishers face harsh reality of illegal activity

Fourteen Vietnamese fishers caught illegally fishing in Australian waters were  convicted in the Darwin Magistrates Court on March 9 2017, with three of the crew sentenced to imprisonment.

The 14 crew were given a range of jail sentences for illegally fishing near Saumarez Reef in the Coral Sea Marine Reserve, after being apprehended on 15 February 2017.

The master, who was a first time offender, received a six-month suspended jail sentence.

Three crew were identified as repeat offenders; two were sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, with the third sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

Ten crew members received two-month suspended jail sentences as first time offenders.

The vigilant efforts of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency task force within the Australian Border Force (ABF), and Parks Australia resulted in the apprehension of their illegal fishing vessel, which was fumigated to eliminate potential biosecurity risks and was destroyed.

AFMA and Parks Australia conducted investigations and recommended charges for identified breaches of the Australian Fisheries Management Act 1991 and Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

General Manager Operations at AFMA, Peter Venslovas, said while Australia’s well-managed fisheries are tempting for foreign fishers, the outcome of this case demonstrates how serious an offence it is to illegally fish in Australian waters.

“AFMA, together with MBC and Parks Australia, are continuing our efforts to protect our premium Commonwealth fisheries,” Mr Venslovas said.

“Potential fish poachers are on our radar – they will be caught and face the harsh consequences of their illegal activity.”

Commander MBC, Rear Admiral Peter Laver, said MBC’s operations are tailored to counter this kind of illegal maritime activity.

“This is another example which demonstrates how our effort at the frontline is stopping the exploitation of our natural resources” Commander Laver said.

“Those who are involved in such illegal activities will be caught and prosecuted accordingly.”

Parks Australia Manager for Marine Parks Compliance, Scott Clementz, said illegal fishing activities damaged Australia’s marine habitats.

“Tough penalties are necessary to deter illegal fishing activity,” Mr Clementz said.

“Without strong deterrence we are not able to preserve the health of our oceans for current and future generations.

“Parks Australia welcomes these convictions and we will continue to work with our partners to pursue those who break the rules that protect Australia’s marine parks.”

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