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Australia welcomes international support for hot pursuit of suspect fishing boat.



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Senator Ian Macdonald

Senator Chris Ellison Dr Sharman Stone MP

Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation Minister for Justice Parliamentary Secretary and Customs to the Minister for the

Environment

J O I N T M E D I A R E L E A S E

Australia welcomes international support for hot pursuit of suspect fishing boat

The Australian Government has welcomed offers of assistance from a number of countries, including South Africa, for the hot pursuit of the suspected illegal fishing boat Viarsa.

Fisheries Minister, Senator Ian Macdonald, said the offers were further proof of the international support building behind efforts to get the Viarsa to accompany our patrol vessel to an Australian port.

“This is not the first time that Australia has united with other countries to tackle the problem of alleged Patagonian toothfish poaching,” Senator Macdonald said.

“In 2001, South Africa helped Australian authorities to apprehend the South Tomi, another illegal fishing vessel detected in our sub-Antarctic fishing grounds.”

Senator Macdonald said Australia was now working both diplomatically and on enforcement options with South Africa and a number of other countries to develop ways of putting further pressure on the Viarsa’s owners to comply with Australia’s request that the vessel proceed to a suitable port.

Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Australian Antarctic Division, said that South Africa was particularly sensitive to illegal fishing for Toothfish.

“Their own fisheries were driven close to commercial extinction just a few years ago when relentlessly targeted by poachers.

“South Africa, like Australia is anxious to see the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) become a more effective vehicle for protecting Antarctic species. The next meeting of CCAMLR in October will be critical,” Dr Stone said.

Justice and Customs Minister Senator Chris Ellison said South Africa’s willingness to help Australia sent a clear message that the international community would work together to combat illegal fishing.

“By now, it should be pretty clear to the Viarsa that its best course of action is to stop trying to outrun our patrol vessel and instead, comply with Australian orders,” Senator Ellison said.

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Senator Ellison said Australia’s Customs and Fisheries patrol vessel, the Southern Supporter, had now been in pursuit of the Viarsa in the dangerous waters of the Southern Ocean for 12 days.

“Since that time, the two boats have travelled more than 1,800 nautical miles south west from where the pursuit first began inside the Australian Fishing Zone around Heard Island and McDonald Islands,” Senator Ellison said.

“Latest reports received back from the Southern Supporter, which is 1,200 nautical miles due south of Cape Town, confirm that the weather and sea conditions continue to be icy cold and difficult. However, we remain committed to pursuing the Viarsa.”

Contact Details:

Senator Macdonald’s Office: Philip Connole 02 6277 7270 or 0417 063 605 Senator Ellison’s Office: Mairi Barton 02 6277 7260 or 0439 300 335 Dr Stone’s Office: Amanda Kennedy 02 6277 2016 or 0423 577 045

Media Note:

Customs has conducted a radio interview with an officer on board the Southern Supporter. A .wav file is available for download at www.customs.gov.au (click on the media room link).

Photographs of the Viarsa in the ice and Customs and Fisheries officers on board the Southern Supporter, taken on August 17, are available at www.customs.gov.au. (click on the media room link).

File vision of the Southern Supporter operating in rough conditions in the Southern Ocean on a patrol in December 2001 is available from Chris Schofield at Customs Corporate Communication on 0418 281 501.

AFFA 03/158M E107/03 19 August 2003