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Archived media releases and speeches

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Joint Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
&
Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs
Alexander Downer MP
&
Australian Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation
Senator Eric Abetz

22 September 2006

Australia getting tough on protecting high seas biodiversity


Australia will be taking a strong stand to protect marine biodiversity at this year's United Nations General Assembly. In a new proposal, Australia will call for an immediate ban on bottom trawling in unmanaged areas of the high seas and tougher regulation and scrutiny of fishing practices which could have destructive impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems.

Australia is concerned about the potential impacts of a range of fishing practices on fragile areas of the high seas, such as seamounts. Australia's new position calls on regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) to implement and enforce measures that will prevent destruction to vulnerable marine ecosystems. This would include a ban on potentially destructive fishing practices unless it can be shown scientifically that the activity will not cause damage to fragile marine ecosystems, such as seamounts, hydrothermal vents and cold water corals. Under our plan, RFMOs have until December next year to take action.

For RFMOs currently under development, States would have until just July next year to regulate fishing practices which have a destructive impact on vulnerable marine ecosystems or a ban applies.

In areas where no RFMO currently exists or is being developed, an immediate ban on bottom trawling would apply. In all cases, States and RFMOs would be required to develop and implement compliance and enforcement measures to give force to prohibitions. This means that fishing nations will need to develop and implement national and regional measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems as a matter of priority.

Australia has strong credentials in oceans and fisheries management. We have already moved to protect seamounts within our exclusive economic zone to the south-east of Tasmania and have recently developed a series of new marine protected areas. About one-third of the world's marine protected areas are now in Australian waters. In addition, Australia will continue our fight to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Media contact:
Mr Campbell's office 02 6277 7640
Mr Downer's office 02 6277 7500
Senator Abetz's Office 02 6277 7270

Commonwealth of Australia