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Tough new laws for illegal fishing but no protection for endangered fish.

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Senator Brian Greig Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Fisheries

11 February 2004 MEDIA RELEASE 04/067

Tough New Laws for Illegal Fishing But No Protection for Endangered Fish

The Australian Democrats today helped pass new laws which allow the Federal Government to recover costs of pursuing and detaining foreign fishers caught fishing illegally in Australian waters.

Democrats’ Fisheries spokesperson, Senator Brian Greig, welcomes the new laws which also increase the penalties for illegal fishing by foreigners in Australian waters, but says the laws are only half the solution to the illegal trade.

“These tougher new laws are welcome, but we again call on the Government to take action to curb the international trade in key targeted species, including Patagonian Toothfish, Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT), and Orange Roughy,” Senator Greig said.

“Enforcement alone is not an effective long-term solution to this problem. It must be accompanied by restrictions on the international trade in illegally caught fish.

“At the upcoming Conference of Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, the Australian Government must nominate Patagonian Toothfish, SBT and Orange Roughy for inclusion on Appendix II of the Convention,” Senator Greig said.

“Unless this occurs, we will continue to witness the illegal exploitation of our fishing resources and the devastation of the marine environment that comes with illegal fishing.

"Of particular concern is the impact of illegal longline fishing on numerous species of seabirds, including several species of albatrosses and petrels,” said Senator Greig.

“Unless further action is taken, more restrictions will have to be put on legal fishing of these target species of fish. Such measures might include the listing of these species as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

“As the Government has acknowledged, if the rates of illegal fishing continue, the Patagonian Toothfish will be commercially extinct within two to three years. Stocks of SBT and Orange Roughy in Australian waters have already plummeted in the past decade,” Senator Greig said.

“On the basis of the current data, it is likely that these species are already eligible for listing under the EPBC Act.

“The Government is stalling because it does not want to list a commercially targeted fish species because it will stop the legal trade in these species. However, if the rates of illegal fishing continue, there will be no choice,” Senator Greig said.

Media contact: Senator Greig on 02) 6277 3338 or Di Graham 0417 177 523