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Joint Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
Minister for Forestry and Conservation
Senator the Hon. Ian Macdonald

30 May 2002

New Plan to Manage Australia's Sub-Antarctic Fishery Resources

New arrangements to manage Australia's fishery in sub-Antarctic waters around Heard Island and the McDonald Islands were announced today by the Minister for Fisheries, Senator Ian Macdonald and the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp.

Senator Macdonald and Dr Kemp said that the Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) Fishery Management Plan 2002 is a major step forward in protecting the unique marine environment and fisheries resources in Australia's most remote fishery.

Under the HIMI Plan, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) will allocate quotas for fishing rights to operators for Mackerel Icefish and the highly sought after Patagonian Toothfish.

"Given the environmental significance of the sub-Antarctic region, AFMA has adopted a precautionary approach to management and has put in place arguably the world's most rigorous management arrangements," Senator Macdonald said.

"This new Management Plan is part of the Government's commitment to managing Australian fisheries resources in an ecologically sustainable manner. It incorporates sound performance measures and environmental requirements and a range of management initiatives aimed at minimising the impact of fishing on seals, seabirds and penguins," Dr Kemp said.

The HIMI Fishery started as a new and exploratory fishery under AFMA's management in 1996. It has grown to become a valuable and environmentally significant Australian fishery. The HIMI Plan was developed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) after extensive stakeholder consultation over the last two years.

Australia's sub-Antarctic fishery is one of the most highly regulated fisheries in the world, with AFMA observers on each vessel, no-waste-overboard restrictions in order to limit interaction with the feeding patterns of seals and seabirds, and constraints on areas of operation to ensure the catch of breeding fish is minimised.

The fishery is also regulated as trawl based to prevent the major loss of life of seabirds, particularly albatross and petrels, that is associated with current methods of long-lining, which is the preferred form of fishing for most other participants.

The HIMI Plan is the first Commonwealth management plan assessed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to ensure sustainability of the fishing effort.

Dr Kemp also agreed to enable a legal export trade by Australian fishers by exempting toothfish from the blanket ban under the EPBC Act which provides protection to all native species.

The Minister stressed that any proposal to change fishing operations in the area, such as the introduction of long-line fishing which may have a detrimental impact on protected sea birds, would require re-assessment under the EPBC Act.

Ministers Kemp and Macdonald emphasized that the long term economic and environmental future of the fishery depends to a certain extent on the Australian Government's success in combating illegal fishing in the HIMI region and on the Antarctic high seas.

"Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is something that Australia is taking very seriously as illustrated by the recent apprehension of the foreign fishing vessels South Tomi, Lena, and Volga by the Australian Defence Force," Senator Macdonald said.

"I am continuing to work with my Ministerial colleagues and all relevant agencies to develop comprehensive strategies to further reduce the level of IUU fishing in our Southern waters."

"The Australian Government is determined to do all it can to protect stocks of Patagonian Toothfish and the broader marine environment from the impacts of illegal fishing in the region. Arrangements under the HIMI Management Plan adequately take account of those impacts," said Dr Kemp.

Media contacts:
Dr Kemp's office Catherine Job 02 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400
Senator Macdonald's office Angus Nicholls 02 6277 7270 or 0407 495 644

Commonwealth of Australia