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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

2 November 2002

Australia to Continue to Drive Protection for Toothfish

International moves to strengthen protection of the Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish were acknowledged today by the Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, Dr Sharman Stone.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which represents 24 nations, agreed in Hobart to a number of measures to protect the toothfish, which are under serious threat from illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

"Since its adoption in 1982 CCAMLR has played an important role in protecting Antarctica's unique and fragile marine ecosystems," Dr Stone said. "The decisions taken today are significant, although Australia had hoped that the Commission would taken even stronger measures.

"Australia will continue to pursue the elimination of IUU fishing and will seek wider global support for the CCAMLR catch documentation scheme and other trade measures from this month's meeting of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Chile."

The Scientific Committee of CCAMLR concluded that, "continued IUU pressure would increase the potential for catastrophic and precipitous declines in stock biomass".

"The Australian Government is deeply concerned by these trends, which pose a significant threat not only to toothfish stocks but also to endangered sea bird populations, such as the albatross, due to the lack of concern pirate fishers have for bycatch issues," Dr Stone said.

CCAMLR members agreed to:

Australia also welcomed an undertaking by the United States that it would no longer accept catches of toothfish from high seas areas adjacent to the CCAMLR Area in the Indian Ocean. This responds to the Commission's concern that high catches claimed to have been caught in adjacent high sea areas are probably taken inside the CCAMLR area, but misreported.

Every member of CCAMLR undertook to do everything necessary to eliminate IUU fishing for toothfish and to ensure its conservation, in accordance with the recent commitment at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to act urgently to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015 at the latest.

"It is clear that IUU fishing is a threatening process for fish stocks and must be fought and eliminated. This has been affirmed by the FAO and the World Summit," Dr Stone said. "It is disappointing that, given this overwhelming global recognition of the problem, CCAMLR did not go further."

"Australia is committed to eliminating IUU fishing and has been pursuing a number of initiatives, primarily through CCAMLR, to tackle the escalating problem of IUU fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean."

Media contacts:
Simon Frost: 0419 495 468

Commonwealth of Australia