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Joint Statement by

Senator Robert Hill, Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Hon Warren Truss, Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries

2 November 2000

The Australian Government has welcomed a statement by the interim Prime Minister of Mauritius that his country would join in the international fight against illegal Patagonian toothfish activities.

Australia has long been concerned that vessels engaged in illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the Southern Ocean have used Port Louis, Mauritius, to land their illegal catches. Port Louis has been a key link in illegal fishing for toothfish. Illegal longline fishing has also killed thousands of seabirds, including endangered albatrosses.

Australia therefore welcomes the commitment made by the Mauritian Government to investigate measures to tackle the problem, including closing Port Louis to fishing vessels suspected of being engaged in the illegal fishing of the endangered toothfish.

In his address to the Mauritian parliament yesterday, the interim Prime Minister, Mr Paul Bérenger, explicitly mentioned Australia's efforts in encouraging Mauritius to take measures to stop unloading and trans shipment activities of illegally caught toothfish. This is a tribute to the determined efforts of Australia's diplomatic mission in Mauritius.

It is understood that one of the motivations for the announcement by the interim Mauritian Prime Minister was the sinking of the vessel "Amur" on October 10, which was apparently fishing illegally in French waters off the sub-Antarctic island of Kerguelen. Fourteen fishermen died in the incident. The Belize flagged vessel had been recently found to be unseaworthy in Chile. This is a common problem with the unregulated vessels involved in IUU fishing.

The announcement by the Mauritian government is timely, as it coincides with the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), currently taking place in Hobart. Australia has played a lead role in ensuring that CCAMLR takes strong action against illegal fishing.This announcement by Mauritius will greatly assist the work of CCAMLR. The Australian Government looks forward to Mauritius joining CCAMLR's efforts to combat illegal fishing, including participation in the catch documentation scheme for toothfish, and we would welcome Mauritius becoming a full member of CCAMLR.

November 2, 2000

Contact: Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill) 02 62777640 or 0419 258364

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