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

16 August 1999

AUSTRALIA SEEKS INTERNATIONAL MEETING ON ILLEGAL FISHING


Federal Environment and Heritage Minister, Robert Hill, today announced that he has invited Ministers from other nations with responsibility for CCAMLR to attend a special meeting in Hobart in October to seek agreement on tough action to combat illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean.

CCAMLR, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, manages fishing in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.

"Australia and New Zealand have led international efforts to stamp out illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean which is threatening the very existence of the Patagonian toothfish," Senator Hill said.

"Some toothfish stocks are already commercially extinct in the area managed by CCAMLR and further such extinctions are likely in the next year or two unless CCAMLR takes strong action at its next meeting.

"Illegal fishing activities threaten not only toothfish populations but endangered seabirds, such as albatross, caught by illegal and unregulated longline fishers.

"While CCAMLR has considerably improved controls aimed at reducing illegal fishing over recent years, Australia continues to be concerned that unless more stringent measures are put in place this year, we will loose the battle to save the toothfish from fishing pirates.

"Given CCAMLR member countries' dominance of world markets, I am particularly concerned to see members adopt strict controls to prevent import of toothfish caught illegally or in a manner that undermines CCAMLR.

Senator Hill said that CCAMLR is due to consider new measures at its October meeting which were developed at a special meeting in Brussels earlier this year.

"However, the draft scheme needs significant changes, including its application to fishing outside the CCAMLR area, if it is to be effective," Senator Hill said.

"Further discussions by officials may not resolve the present scheme's weaknesses, and Ministerial involvement at CCAMLR will enhance development of effective and timely measures to eradicate the effects of illegal fishing activities."

Media contacts:
Rod Bruem (Senator Hill's office) 0419 693 515 or 02 6277 7640
Tony Press (Director, Australian Antarctic Division) 0419 698 970 or 03 6232 3200

Commonwealth of Australia