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Australia identifies new Indian Ocean fishery

Australia is playing a lead role in developing internationally accepted management arrangements for a potentially important new fishery in the south west Indian Ocean, the Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, said today.

Mr Truss said a draft regional fisheries management arrangement is being prepared in accordance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international agreements covering the rights and responsibilities of countries fishing on the high seas.

The fishery is based mainly on deepwater species that are harvested by trawling on and around a ridge of seamounts, and may be only one of a number in the southern Indian Ocean with commercial potential.

"Australian boats undertaking exploratory fishing in the region in mid-1999 were among the first to realise the fishery's potential and were quick to call for urgent action to ensure it was managed responsibly and sustainably and in cooperation with other fishing nations," Mr Truss said.

"This concern is well founded given increasing reports of uncontrolled fishing in the region.

"Australia has already had discussions with South Africa and New Zealand with a view to developing draft management arrangements for the fishery. I believe these draft arrangements will provide a firm basis for discussions with other countries interested in the fishery.

"In keeping with the need to promote greater cooperation and transparency in the conservation of marine resources on the high seas, the draft arrangement will include principles and an implementation framework which will be made available to the international fishing community."

Mr Truss said the challenge for fishing nations, and those that provide port facilities, is to work together in finding ways of protecting fish resources on the high seas before it was too late.

He expects Australia's draft text for the arrangement will be forwarded to officials in New Zealand and South Africa shortly.

Further inquiries -
Minister's office: Andrew Hall (02) 6277 7520
AFFA: Murray Johns (02) 6272 5777
AFMA: Peter Venslovas (02) 6272 5029
AFFA00/114WT

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