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Chinese captains to face illegal fishing charges.



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Chinese captains to face illegal fishing charges

The Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Eric Abetz, today confirmed that charges of illegal fishing have been laid against the captains of two Chinese fishing vessels caught inside Australian waters last month.

Following investigations by Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) officers, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has determined that there is sufficient evidence to proceed with charges against the two captains under fisheries legislation.

The maximum penalty for the charges is $550,000. The owners also face the loss of the vessels and catch of approximately 55 tonnes of reef fish.

Both captains will also face charges for resisting apprehension and opposing boarding by Commonwealth officers. The maximum penalty is two years imprisonment.

“While we can’t prejudge the outcome of any trial, the fact that the DPP has judged the evidence to be strong enough to lay charges is encouraging,” the Minister said.

“The strong message from this is: if you are operating illegally in Australian waters, no matter who you are, you will be prosecuted with the full weight of Australian law.”

The two vessels, De Yuan Yu 001 and De Yuan Yu 002, were intercepted by HMAS Ipswich after being spotted by Coastwatch aircraft.

The two vessels were inside the Australian Fishing Zone north-west of the Wessels off the Northern Territory coast.

The 31-metre fishing vessels were escorted to Darwin last month for investigation by AFMA.

Thirteen crew were found on board one vessel, 14 on the other. All were People’s Republic of China nationals.

Crew members not being charged will be repatriated as soon as possible.

High-resolution images of the vessels are available from the AFMA web site at:http://www.afma.gov.au/information/library/images/chineseboats/default.htm

DAFF06/031A 1 May 2006

Further inquiries:

Senator Abetz’s office: Brad Stansfield 0419 884 666