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Surveillance of North West coast

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THURSDAY 24 JULY, 1975 NO. 42/75


More than 150 Taiwanese fishing vessels have been spotted this month off Australia's north-west coast during surveillance operations by the RAN and RAAF.

The Minister for Defence, Mr Bill Morrison, said many of the Taiwanese trawlers were working close to the 12-mile Australian fisheries zone.

Mr Morrison has authorised the RAAF and RAN to continue the surveillance operation ("Operation Trochus") which began in March. It was originally aimed at keeping a watch on Indonesian fishing vessels. Thirty-six Indonesian fishing boats had been

identified - three of which had been apprehended for fishing too close to the mainland.

Mr Morrison said the Indonesian fleet had now largely dispersed , and only one Indonesian boat was now operating in the area.

"Since March, RAAF long range martime patrol aircraft and RAN Grumman Tracker aircraft have logged over 1000 flying hours and RAN patrol boats have logged 187 ship-days on the surveillance operation", Mr Morrison said.

"We have built up a comprehensive picture of the activities

of foreign vessels in an area of 100,000 square kilometres between Broome and North West Cape".

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Surveillance of the Indonesian fishermen was begun at the request of State and Australian Government authorities

responsible for such matters as fisheries, immigration, health and customs. .

. "Previously, information about the movements of foreign fishing vessels was acquired from casual sightings by ships and aircraft passing through the area. For example, in 1972 only

22 sightings were reported. In the first month of Operation

Trochus this year, our aircraft reported 345 separate sightings of the 36 Indonesian boats operating off the north-west coast”.

The Defence Minister said latest reports indicated that the Taiwanese fishing fleet was considerably more sophisticated and professional than the Indonesians, who were purely subsistence fishermen. The Taiwanese are operating 40-metre trawlers with

crews of ten to 14 men.

"Four Taiwanese vessels have been apprehended by RAN patrol boats and escorted to Darwin where they have been charged

with breaches of the Australian Fisheries Act”.

Mr Morrison stressed that the Government's concern was not only to discourage trespassing into Australia's fishing zone, but also prevent smuggling activities, illegal entry, and the introduct­

ion of livestock diseases. .


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