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Media Release
Commonwealth Minister for Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

11 December 2003

Minister wins Federal Court Decision to Protect Whales


A shark fisherman from Port Lincoln in South Australia has been fined $25,000 for taking his vessel into a marine park when it was closed to protect whales.

The Federal Court in Adelaide ordered that Ronald David Atterton pay the penalty for breaching the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 by entering the Great Australian Bight Marine Park in October 2001, at a time when commercial fishing boats were banned from entering.

"This is the first civil action taken under the Howard Government's environment protection law and I am pleased that the Federal Court has upheld my application," Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, said today.

"This decision sends a strong message that the Howard Government is serious about protecting whales in Australian waters in addition to our ongoing strong international campaigning at the International Whaling Commission.

"The Head of the Bight is a nationally significant breeding ground for the endangered southern right whale. While the Marine Park is generally open for commercial fishing, areas near the Head of the Bight are closed for six months during their annual migration to protect the southern right whales being disturbed or harmed by vessels or fishing gear."

Mr Atterton's vessel was detected near the Head of the Bight in a joint operation by the Australian Customs Service and National Parks and Wildlife South Australia.

The Industry Representative on the Great Australian Bight Marine Park Consultative Committee, Roger Edwards, joined the Minister in welcoming the Court's decision.

"We do not condone lawbreaking and we fully support the action of the Department of the Environment and Heritage in ensuring that the Marine Park is effectively managed," Mr Edwards said.

Dr Kemp added: "From the outset, the fishing industry in South Australia has supported a strong response by the Government to ensure a level playing field for all operators.

"With their support and with this strong Court order today, we have sounded a warning to all commercial fishing vessels that they must not breach the laws designed to protect our endangered species.

"The maximum penalty available for this type of action is $55,000."

Commonwealth of Australia