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Vaile Slams Unregulated Fishing On Our Doorstep

AFFA99/106V 6 July 1999

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Mark Vaile, today strongly criticised unregulated fishing by South African and Belize operators just outside Australian waters pledging an extra $200,000 to help identify and deal with illegal fishing.

Mr Vaile said the South African and Belize operators were undermining Australia's efforts to manage the vulnerable orange roughy fish stock on the South Tasman Rise (STR). The STR straddles the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) and the high seas south east of Tasmania.

"Enough is enough. All countries fishing illegally in Australian waters, or on Australian straddling stocks, are warned that the Federal Government will take every step to protect our marine resources and our fishing industry," Mr Vaile said.

"Australia regularly patrols the waters of Heard and McDonald Islands looking for Patagonian toothfish pirates, and we're preparing to launch dispute settlement proceedings against Japan over its experimental fishing program on southern bluefin tuna. We can do without this additional, disgraceful action on our doorstep.

"It's time for Australia to work with like minded countries to bring unregulated, high seas fishing to an end.

"We are in the process of ratifying the UN's Fish Stocks agreement, which will help provide a legal framework for managing the problem. Australia will work tirelessly to ensure all countries abide by the rules and principles established in these agreements."

Mr Vaile said the Federal Government was committing an additional $200,000 to help identify and deal with Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing, in cooperation with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

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"A surveillance flight last Thursday (July 1) identified two large South African factory trawlers on the STR capable of taking 300 tonnes of fish daily, along with another trawler flagged in Belize," he said.

"The vessels were fishing a spawning aggregation of orange roughy only four nautical miles outside the AFZ. All the evidence suggests there's only one genetic stock on the STR, and Australian and NZ scientists agree it should be managed as a single, discrete stock.

"The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provides Australia with the responsibility and right to sustainably manage these fish stocks.

"Australia has established an arrangement with New Zealand to closely regulate and control catches by fishers from our two countries.

South Africa has made no attempt to join the Australian and New Zealand access arrangement.

"However, I'm advised today that as a result of our formal complaints the South African Government has requested its operator to cease all fishing in the region of the STR."

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