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Illegal trade hurting abalone industry.

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Illegal trade hurting abalone industry

AFFA03/151M 14 August 2003

The Australian Government will consider a ban on abalone exports that do not have proper documentation in a bid to curb an illegal trade of the delicacy.

Speaking at the second National Abalone Convention, Federal Fisheries Minister Senator Ian Macdonald said the industry faced serious sustainability concerns from illegal poachers and exporters.

"To combat the problem, the Australian Government is working with State and industry representatives on ways to address this illegal trade," Senator Macdonald said. "We might need to improve existing labelling and certification to track the product's origin to ensure it has been legally caught. In short, we could impose a ban on any product without proper documentation to help stamp out this illegal activity."

Senator Macdonald said some recent arrests proved many State governments were dedicating significant resources to the problem, but more needed to be done.

"This will take a lot of effort, particularly since abalone are now reportedly being traded for illicit drugs rather than cash," he said. "It is so important we topple this problem because the illegal take of abalone directly undermines existing management arrangements, and undercuts economic returns to legitimate operators.

"The trade could also damage Australia's reputation as a producer of high-quality seafood products."

Senator Macdonald said the hot pursuit of a vessel suspected of illegally fishing for Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean this week showed how serious the Government was about stamping out illegal fishing. The need to diversify into new markets across the globe will also be discussed.

"Despite impressive growth in the industry, the recent SARS outbreak brought home to us the fragile nature of the international export trade," Senator Macdonald said. "It had a significant impact on the export of all fisheries products to Asian markets, and has proven the need to further promote our product in different parts of the world."

The convention will also hear about the benefits of aquaculture, and moves to promote land-based farming. Aquaculture currently provides just $2.5 million of the $245 million abalone industry.

"It remains vital for the Australian Government to work with peak bodies

representing the industry to capitalise on growth potential through value-adding and by drawing on continued advances in aquaculture," Senator Macdonald said.

The convention comes just three weeks after the launch of the National Aquaculture Policy statement.

Further inquiries:

Senator Macdonald's office: Mr David Crisafulli (02) 6277 7270 or 0400 144 483