Australian authorities say they have disrupted illegal foreign fishing activity in the Ashmore Reef Marine Park, approximately 840 kilometres west of Darwin.
In a recent dedicated operation, the Australian Border Force cutter, Cape Nelson, intercepted and boarded three Indonesian fishing vessels that were detected undertaking illegal fishing in the park.
Once intercepted, approximately 179 kilograms of trepang (also known as sea cucumber) and five kilograms of fresh fish was located and seized, along with forfeited fishing equipment from all three vessels.
One vessel was destroyed at sea in accordance with Australian law. The crew were transferred to the two remaining vessels and escorted outside of the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The threat of illegal fishing remains strong
Rear Admiral Mark Hill, Commander of the Maritime Border Command, said that while illegal foreign fishing attempts had decreased in recent years, thanks to a strong presence and action from Australian government agencies, the operation proved that the threat of illegal foreign fishing in Australian waters remains.
“Across the region, foreign fishing fleets are moving from their usual fishing grounds to explore and exploit new ones,” Hill said.
According to Hill, the operation highlights the work undertaken by the Border Force, Australian Fisheries Management Authority and Maritime Border Command to protect the country’s sea borders and safeguard its marine wildlife and natural resources.
“Our message to unauthorised foreign fishers is simple. We will intercept you [and] you will lose your catch, your equipment and possibly even your vessel,” Hill warned.
Committed to protecting Australian waters
“We are committed to protecting Australia’s maritime domain from a range of potential threats, including illegal attempts to fish in our marine parks,”
Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s General Manager of Operations, Peter Venslovas, said the outcome was a positive one.
“The seizure of fishing gear and disposal of vessels serves as a reminder to those seeking to exploit Australia’s marine resources that authorities have zero tolerance for such illegal activity,” Venslovas said.
While illegal fishing boats from Indonesia and other nearby nations are regularly acted against by Australian authorities, there is a wider concern that the giant Chinese fishing fleet – by some estimates it has 12,500 deep water vessels – will be a far greater threat to Australian fisheries as China seeks new fishing grounds around the world.