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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

07 February 2002

Protection for Patagonian Toothfish following seizure of fishing vessel in Southern Ocean

The integrity of Australia's sovereignty and the protection of rare and endangered marine life in the Southern Ocean have been preserved following the seizure by HMAS Canberra of a suspected illegal fishing vessel in Australian waters.

Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Australia's Antarctic Division, Dr Sharman Stone, has welcomed yesterday's apprehension of the vessel Lena, suspected of fishing illegally for Patagonian toothfish in Australia's fishing zone around Heard Island.

The Lena was discovered in the Heard Island region late last year by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority's patrol vessel Southern Supporter. The Australian Antarctic Division has worked closely with both AFMA and the Australian Defence Force to address the threat that illegal and unregulated fishing pose to our waters.

Dr Stone said that while it was disappointing that the Lena had blatantly returned to the Heard Island waters, she was pleased that this time the vessel could be returned to Australia to have the charges investigated.

"With my responsibilities for Australia's Antarctic interests I believe the action by HMAS Canberra is vital to protecting the sensitive subantarctic environment and our Antarctic fisheries resources", Sharman Stone said.

"It sends a strong message to the illegal fishing market, worth $180 million a year wholesale, much of which ends up in overseas restaurants".

"This has resulted in the near extinction of the Patagonian Toothfish in waters off South Africa's Prince Edward and Marion Islands. After only 12 months of illegal fishing around these and other sub-antarctic islands, stocks were devastated".

"Given the long lifespan of the species means that toothfish may not start breeding until they are 15 years old, illegal and unregulated fishing may mean that it takes many years before stocks regenerate".

"Our action at Heard Island is part of a much broader campaign by Australia, along with its partners in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), to stamp out illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing which undermines international efforts to manage the toothfish resource sustainably" Dr Stone said.

"In addition, because illegal fishers use long lines indiscriminately, they are killing seabirds and endangered albatross. We are determined to stop this practice and will continue to work closely with our international partners to enhance measures to combat this problem".

Sharman Stone said that Australia takes the protection of its waters from environmental vandals very seriously.

"We are talking about a part of Australia that is very remote from our shores. But that doesn't mean we don't take action when our environment, resources and sovereignty are under threat", Dr Stone said.

Simon Frost 0419 495 468
Thursday February 7th, 2002

Commonwealth of Australia