A Vietnamese fishing vessel and its crew of 15 men suspected of illegally fishing near Saumarez Reef in the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve has been apprehended.
Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency task force within the Australian Border Force (ABF), working in cooperation with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), apprehended and escorted the vessel to Gladstone, Queensland.
The vessel was originally sighted by an MBC surveillance aircraft on 6 April 2017.
ABF Cutter Cape Jervis responded, intercepting and boarding the vessel at Saumarez Reef on April 10 2017. The vessel had a substantial amount of bêche-de-mer (sea cucumber) on board.
AFMA and Parks Australia are investigating for breaches of the Australian Fisheries Management Act 1991 and Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
Commander MBC Rear Admiral Peter Laver said this is another successful outcome following Australian Government agencies’ concerted efforts to detect and stop illegal fishing in Australian waters.
“The enormous Australian maritime domain is subject to surveillance 24 hours a day, and we remain highly responsive to any attempts to engage in theft of this nature,” Rear Admiral Peter Laver said.
“Our resources, including personnel, water, and air-based assets, as well as cutting-edge technology, allow us to monitor and promptly apprehend those in the business of illegal fishing in Australian waters.”
AFMA’s General Manager Operations Peter Venslovas said protecting Australia’s well-managed fisheries requires a continued whole-of-government approach and effective education at the source.
“AFMA will continue to work with MBC to detect and apprehend those knowingly doing the wrong thing,” Mr Venslovas said.
“We are also focusing on in-country education deterrence campaigns to send a strong and clear message that the Australian Fishing Zone is not open for business to unauthorised fishers.”
Parks Australia’s Manager for Marine Parks Compliance, Scott Clementz, said illegal fishing presented great threats to marine habitats.
“Stopping illegal foreign fishing in the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve is essential to the protection of Australia’s rich biodiversity,” Mr Clementz said.
“The work of our partner agencies is vital to disrupting these damaging activities and helps safeguard our marine areas now and into the future.”