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Australia, NZ, USA Allied To Fight Illegal Fishing

6 August 2004

Australia, NZ And USA Allied To Fight Illegal Fishing

Australia is helping to lead the way with a new approach to combat illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean through the adoption of a centralised Vessel Monitoring System.

Australia, New Zealand and the United States have joined forces to help convince fellow CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) members of the value of a centralised Vessel Monitoring System to help combat the illegal fishing of toothfish.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Australian Minister for the Environment, Dr Sharman Stone, told a seminar in Canberra for representatives of Canberra diplomatic missions of CCAMLR member countries, that Australia had taken a lead in trying to stop illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU).

Dr Stone, who also has parliamentary responsibility for the Australia’s antarctic policies and programs, said CCAMLR manages the harvesting of the living resources of the Southern Ocean and takes into account the effects of harvesting on individual species, as well as the Southern Ocean ecosystem.

“Patagonian toothfish fetch a high price on world markets and hence the targeting by poachers who do not take measures to prevent by-catch deaths, for example, albatross caught on baited long-line fishing hooks,” Dr Stone said.

“CCAMLR has a Catch Documentation Scheme which tracks the taking, landing and trade of toothfish, however more tools are required to stop IUU fishing.” Dr Stone said the flag states currently monitor their vessels using a Vessel Monitoring System, but that it was essential that claims made by vessels about where toothfish were caught, were also able to be independently verified and validated. Dr Stone also advocated the use of tamper-proof units on board fishing vessels.

“Last year the VMS onboard the arrested illegal fishing boat, Viarsa, had been tampered with to show the boat was 3000 nautical miles from where it was detected by an Australian patrol vessel inside Australian waters near Heard Island,” Dr Stone said.

"Under the proposal, tamper-proof. VMS units would operate continuously through the period the vessel was licensed to fish in the CCAMLR area and data reports would be automatically made to the flag states fisheries monitoring service and forwarded to the CCAMLR Secretariat in Hobart within four hours.

“Australia, New Zealand and the United States have been advocating a centrallised VMS for the last two years,” Dr Stone said.

This week’s Canberra seminar provided an opportunity for members to learn more about the VMS and understand the importance of protecting the globally important ecosystems of the Southern Ocean ad to build support for the next CCAMLR meeting in October this year.

In July this year, Australia began armed patrols of Australia's Southern Ocean waters to protect the area from illegal fishing as part of a fulltime surveillance and enforcement program.

Canberra 05 August 2004


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