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Ministers agree on new steps to combat illegal fishing.

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BACK Home | Media Releases DAFF06/075AJ - 11 July 2006

Australian Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation - Senator Eric Abetz Australian Minister for Justice and Customs - Senator Chris Ellison Western australian Minister for Fisheries - Jon Ford Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries - Kon Vatskalis

Queensland Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries - Tim Mulherin

Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministerial Meeting on illegal, foreign fishing in Australian waters


1. Commonwealth, State and Territory fisheries Ministers met today in Sydney to discuss co-operative approaches to implementing the Federal Government’s budget package to fight illegal foreign fishing in Australia’s northern waters.

2. The Commonwealth delegation was led by Senator the Hon Eric Abetz, Minister for Fisheries and Conservation and Senator the Hon Chris Ellison, Minister for Justice and Customs. The Western Australia delegation was led by the Hon Jon Ford MLC, Minister for Fisheries. The Northern Territory delegation was led by the Hon Kon Vatskalis MLA, Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries. The Queensland delegation was led by the Hon Tim Mulherin MP, Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries.

3. Ministers reiterated the seriousness of illegal foreign fishing incursions in Australia’s northern waters and recommitted themselves to working together to fight this scourge.

4. Ministers noted that illegal fishing is a global problem, particularly acute in the region to our north, and that engagement with an action by other countries in the region is an essential element of the long term solution to this problem.

5. The State and Territory Ministers (the States( acknowledged the Federal Government’s additional $388.9m budget commitment to fight illegal fishing in Australia’s northern waters, and enhanced focus on protecting the Australia Fishing Zone from the devastating impacts of illegal foreign fishing. It was agreed that performance indicators would be utilised to gauge the effectiveness of the new compliance initiatives.

6. The Ministers agreed on further measures to help deter illegal foreign fishing vessel incursions.

i. Ministers agreed, as far as possible, to harmonise legislative arrangements across the state, territorial and commonwealth waters, with the aim of creating jurisdictional harmony and uniformity. This will include harmonisation across all relevant legislation including the Commonwealth Migration Act. Western Australia agreed to put their proposed legislation on hold pending agreement between States on a harmonised legislative framework. The Commonwealth will work with States to identify cost implications of any agreed framework.

ii. The Commonwealth agreed to provide classified strategic information and intelligence to the States as required through the Joint Offshore Protection Command (JOPC).

iii. The States agreed to assist the Commonwealth with identifying and securing appropriate land for vessel destruction facilities.

iv. The Commonwealth and States agreed to collaborate on research and development to provide a greater understanding on the effects of illegal foreign fishing on domestic fish stocks.

v. Ministers agreed to examine legislative enforcement regimes to ensure penalties can be applied uniformly across jurisdictions. The Northern Territory agreed to explore the possibility of removing the existing 28 day payment period for fine defaulters as applying to illegal fishers.

vi. States agreed to review payment arrangements to foreign prisoners under illegal fishing offences such that prisoners do not financially benefit from incarceration.

vii. Ministers agreed to establish a pilot programme in each State to increase Indigenous engagement in surveillance, Biosecurity and quarantine activities (not apprehension) across northern Australia, through the $6.9 million announced in the 2006-07 Commonwealth Budget.

viii. Ministers agreed to the on-going cooperative liaison between the Commonwealth and States through officials level meetings and development of formal governance arrangements, including reporting frameworks to provide feedback to Ministers and guidance to the officials meetings. These meetings to include relevant industry representatives as appropriate.

ix. Ministers agreed to meet again in October 2006 to review progress.

Further media inquiries:

Senator Abetz's office: Brad Stansfield 0419 884 666 Senator Ellison's office: Duncan Bremner 0409 003 884 Mr Ford's office: Robin Parsons 0412 009 173 Mr Vatskalis's office: Gemma Buxton 0401 110 064 Mr Mulherin's office: David Potter 07 3239 6530

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