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New Controls Against Illegal Fishing

Hon Simon Upton welcomed new controls against illegal fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean. Meeting in Hobart with other members of the Commission for the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, New Zealand had pressed for an effective response to this serious problem.

In the last three years over 90,000 tonnes had been taken by illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, more than twice the level of catches taken in CCAMLR regulated fisheries.

“These illegal catches are not sustainable, leading to concerns about commercial extinction of some stocks in the Southern Ocean”, said Mr Upton.

“An appalling tally of somewhere between 175,000 to 250,000 seabirds has been killed by these vessels including up to 46,500 albatross species, of which four are listed as ‘Globally Threatened’.

The CCAMLR Catch Documentation Scheme will provide a basis for CCAMLR Members to track and detain if necessary all toothfish shipments, from whatever source.

“This response demonstrates that the International Community can take effective measures consistent with their WTO obligations to protect the world’s environment”, said Mr Upton.

Mr Upton noted that focussing political attention on the problem of illegal fishing of toothfish in the Southern Ocean had been the main objective of the Ministerial on Ice meeting held at Scott Base (25-28 January 1999). “New Zealand will again be undertaking appropriate surveillance activities in the Ross Sea this coming season”, Mr Upton said.

The Catch Documentation Scheme was a welcome new addition to CCAMLR’s other measures including the mandatory use of vessel monitoring systems, port inspections of landings and transhipments, and the marking of vessels and fishing gear.

“The next step”, Mr Upton said, “is to develop measures aimed at nationals of CCAMLR members who may be involved in illegal fishing so that they could not hide behind flags of convenience. This is especially important now that transhipping illegal catches of toothfish at sea is emerging as a major issue as a result of controls being placed in the ports these people use”.

Mr Upton said, “the support of the New Zealand fishing industry for these new measures was welcome as was their ability to adhere to very strict environmental controls”. The Commission noted that the New Zealand research fishing activities in CCAMLR waters over the last two years had caught no seabirds at all.

ENDS

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