Three Papua New Guinean (PNG) nationals have had their fishing boat confiscated and have been returned to PNG after they were found with a haul of tropical rock lobster in the Torres Strait, suspected of being taken illegally in Australian waters.
Maritime Border Command (MBC), a joint agency taskforce within the Australian Border Force (ABF), apprehended the vessel, also known as a ‘banana boat’, near Warrior Reef on Sunday 13 May 2018. An ABF helicopter conducting surveillance of the area detected the vessel fishing in Australian waters and alerted MBC.
Working alongside the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), MBC tasked Australian Border Force Cutter Storm Bay to respond and intercept the vessel.
MBC officers boarded the vessel under the Maritime Powers Act 2013 and located fifty six lobster tails and seven live lobsters on board.
The boat and catch were seized on behalf of AFMA, while the three crew were taken aboard Storm Bay and handed over to PNG authorities at sea on 15 May 2018. Under the terms of the Torres Strait Treaty, PNG nationals suspected of fishing illegally in Australian waters are repatriated to PNG for processing.
Commander MBC Rear Admiral Peter Laver said this is yet another great result in the fight to preserve Australia’s natural resources.
“We will not tolerate any attempt to exploit Australia’s natural resources in the Torres Strait, nor anywhere around our vast coastline. Anyone engaged in this activity should expect to be caught and will risk losing their vessel,” said Rear Admiral Laver.
“Through our collaboration with AFMA and PNG authorities, we have stopped what appears to be another illegal fishing venture. Our combined efforts have seen a significant decrease in the number of illegal foreign fishing incursions in our waters.”
AFMA’s General Manager of Fisheries Operations, Peter Venslovas, said Australian authorities will continue working together to capture those who fish illegally in Australian waters.
“Operations such as this demonstrate a united approach to deterring and preventing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in our waters and the importance we place on ensuring our fish stocks remain sustainable,” Mr Venslovas said.
“Under the terms of the Torres Strait Treaty, PNG authorities will now investigate whether the crew have breached the law, and if found guilty appropriate action will be taken.
“The banana boat has been taken to Thursday Island for processing and the tropical rock lobsters were returned to the sea.”