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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

11 June 2002

Major Blow to Illegal Fishing

Action by Australian authorities has played a major role in a United States seizure of a half-a-million dollar consignment of toothfish - allegedly taken illegally from Antarctic waters earlier this year.

Federal Fisheries Minister, Senator Ian Macdonald and Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Antarctic, today praised the joint operation.

Senator Macdonald said the unprecedented seizure of toothfish - valued at about $500,000 - while being imported to the lucrative US market was a major blow to illegal fishers and traders of such catches.

"It is Australia's view that the catch, taken by the Uruguayan longline vessel Arvisa 1, breached internationally agreed conservation measures and that the vessel had fished illegally in the Antarctic," Senator Macdonald said.

In early January 2002, during one of its regular Antarctic voyages, the Australian Antarctic research vessel Aurora Australis sighted and photographed two fishing vessels close to the Antarctic coast.

The two vessels claimed to be the Mauritania-flagged Kambott and the Ghana-flagged Nova Tuna 1 and denied ownership of nearby longlines. Photographic analysis by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) later identified the boats as the Uruguay-flagged Dorita and Arvisa 1. This was confirmed by an independent expert.

Dr Sharman Stone said the US decision to make the seizure was commendable and supported Australia's strong commitment to ensuring only environmentally sustainable fishing occurred.

"Illegal fishers are devastating fish stocks and, because they do not protect seabirds from the long line hooks and baits, they kill thousands of birds, including albatross ever year. However, legal fishers comply with those conditions" Dr Stone said.

The action follows last week's announcement by Environment and Heritage Minister Dr David Kemp that Australia would nominate the Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish for inclusion in Schedule II of the Convention International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at Santiago, Chile in November.

Senator Macdonald and Dr Stone repeated calls for other importing countries to join Australia and the US in taking strong action to combat illegal fishing and will seek action by the international Commission responsible for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living resources (CCAMLR).

"In this particular case, Australia will continue to urge Uruguay to promptly conclude its investigations into these catches and take strong legal action against the fishers involved," Senator Macdonald said

Further information:
Senator Macdonald's Office: contact Zac Donovan 0438 611 296
Dr Stone's Office: contact Simon Frost 0419 4495 468

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