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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

New Protection for Subantarctic Marine Life

12 February1997

The Commonwealth Government has enacted tough new protective measures for marine life in Southern Ocean waters around Australia's subantarctic Heard Island.

Environment Minister Robert Hill says the new regulations give effect to measures agreed to by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

"These new laws apply environmental standards to Australians fishing in the waters around Heard Island to meet strong internationally agreed measures to protect the region.

"The controls agreed by the Commission are designed to allow fishing activity to proceed in an ecologically sustainable manner. The decisions taken by the Commission are based on the best available scientific advice, taking into account the potential effects of fishing on other species.

"Australia successfully argued at the most recent Commission meeting in Hobart to limit fishing in the region around Heard Island to trawling to avoid seabird mortality associated with longline fishing.

"In areas where longline fishing is allowed, Australia's regulations require measures to reduce the risk to seabirds.

"These include the use of streamers to discourage birds from settling on baits during deployment of longlines and only allowing the setting of longlines at night to minimise the incidental mortality of seabirds which are attracted to baits during daytime.

"The regulations also prohibit the use of plastic packaging bands - a measure which will decrease the incidental mortality of seals caused by entanglement in these bands."

Senators Hill says a revised precautionary catch limit has been set for the commercially-significant Patagonian toothfish. The catch limit is based on new scientific assessments of the total population of the species and have been set to ensure that fishing of the toothfish does not threaten their population. Australia has also adopted strict reporting and monitoring standards and vessels participating in the Patagonian toothfish fisheries will be required to have at least one scientific observer on board.

Media contact - Matt Brown (06) 277 7640 or 0419 693 515.

Commonwealth of Australia