Multi-agency effort thwarts illegal fishing off Australian coast

By Jackson Graham

November 9, 2021

Michael Outram
Australian Border Force (ABF) Commissioner Michael Outram. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The Australian Border Force is working with a range of agencies and departments to apprehend dozens of illegal fishing boats in Australian waters in the past financial year, in some cases destroying the vessels.

The Maritime Border Command taskforce, a partnership between border force and the Australian Defence Force that also works closely with Indonesian authorities, caught 85 illegal fishing vessels in Australian waters in 2020-21. 

Last month, the taskforce, working with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Parks Australia and the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, intercepted 16 foreign vessels fishing illegally near Rowley Shoals. 

Authorities destroyed three of the vessels and seized 630 kilograms of sea cucumber, five tonnes of salt, and fishing equipment. 

Jason Mundy, first assistant secretary of Parks Australia, said the work was helping to safeguard marine areas. 

An illegal fishing boat that Australian authorities destroyed.

“Australian Marine Parks are special places and protecting them from illegal foreign fishing is essential to the protection of our nation’s rich biodiversity,” Mundy said. 

In April authorities commenced an operation focused on illegal foreign fishing in the waters off Ashmore Island and Cartier Island Marine Parks, and Scott Reef, more than 800 kilometres west of Darwin. 

Over several weeks they intercepted 19 foreign fishing vessels and seized 860 kilograms of sea cucumber, 105 kilograms of fish, and fishing equipment.

Australian authorities transferred crews to other vessels and destroyed three of the foreign fishing vessels at sea, with the crews escorted outside of the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone. 

Maritime Border Command rear admiral Mark Hill said the combination of efforts from public agencies enabled the surveillance, patrol and response activities to occur and successfully combat the illegal fishing. 

Australian Fisheries Management Authority operations general manager Peter Venslovas said the seizure of fishing gear and disposal of vessels was a reminder that authorities would not tolerate those seeking to conduct illegal activity in Australian waters.


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