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Australia welcomes Norwegian Government action on illegal fishing

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FA98 22 July 1998


Australia has welcomed action by Norway to prevent Norwegians from poaching Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean, including in Australia’s exclusive economic zone.

The steps announced by the Norwegian Government prohibit fishing vessels with Norwegian interests, which are participating in unregulated and illegal fishing in the Antarctic Ocean and elsewhere under flags of convenience, from obtaining quotas or licences to fish in Norwegian waters.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer said: "We have been actively campaigning over the past twelve months to raise awareness internationally of the threat to the Patagonian toothfish from illegal and unregulated fishing.

"This diplomatic effort complements the direct action taken by the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to apprehend foreign fishing vessels in Australia’s FEZ, around Heard Island.

"Norway’s action shows that our message is being heard."

The Australian Government calls on other countries whose nationals operate under flags of convenience to follow the lead of Norway and take concrete steps to deter such activity by their nationals. Norway’s new legislation clearly demonstrates that countries other than the flag state can take action to limit illegal and unregulated fishing.

Norway has also tightened its guidelines for the allocation of subsidies to ship building yards for the construction of fishing vessels and introduced more stringent requirements for Norwegian flagged vessels fishing in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) Area. Both these steps will act to help protect the fish stocks of the CCAMLR Area.

The Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Parer, said: "The actions of the Norwegian Government will act as a significant deterrent to Norwegian operators poaching fish from Australia’s EEZ around Heard and McDonald Islands in the Southern Ocean.

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"Australia has been working closely with Norway, and a number of other countries, to implement stronger measures to combat illegal fishing, both nationally and through cooperative international efforts including in the CCAMLR," he said.

Australia will be promoting a number of practical measures at the forthcoming CCAMLR meeting, including the mandatory use of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) on all vessels licensed to fish in the CCAMLR Area or in areas adjacent to it; the introduction of controls to deny non-emergency port access to vessels engaged in illegal or unregulated fishing; the consideration of certification schemes and other "market state" controls to prevent trade in illegally caught toothfish; and stronger legal controls over nationals of CCAMLR Parties to prevent them engaging in illegal and unregulated fishing.


The sustainability of the Patagonian toothfish is being severely threatened by illegal and unregulated fishing in the Southern Ocean. Illegal fishing is that carried out in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of States in contravention of the laws of those States. Unregulated fishing is carried out in the area of the high seas regulated by the conservation measures of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). It is

clear that a significant amount of the catch being sold in international markets is the result of illegal activity. Both types of fishing undermine national and regional regimes which have been put in place to ensure that both the Patagonian toothfish and the environment which supports the species is sufficiently protected.

During 1997 the amount of illegal and unregulated fishing has far exceeded the global Total Allowable Catch (TAC), with consequent financial gains. If illegal and unregulated fishing continues at the current level the population of Patagonian toothfish will be so severely decimated that within the next 2 to 3 years the species will be commercially extinct. Some areas are already showing signs of this. .

The illegal and unregulated fishing of Patagonian toothfish also has wider implications for other elements of the sub-antarctic ecosystem. Collateral damage on seabirds and other fish stocks and predators is a cause for serious concern and has been the subject of considerable discussion within CCAMLR. It is highly unlikely that illegal fishers are using mitigation measures to avoid bycatch of seabirds and it is estimated that tens of thousands of seabirds are killed annually, including endangered species of albatross.

Media Inquiries: Senator Parer’s Office - Bill McKinley (02) 6277 7440 Department Foreign Affairs and Trade - Tony Melville (02) 6261 1555