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Minister discusses seizure of Uruguayan fishing vessel, 'Viarsa', suspected of poaching Patagonian toothfish.

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Friday 5 September 2003

Minister discusses seizure of Uruguayan fishing vessel, 'Viarsa', suspected of poaching Patagonian toothfish


LINDA MOTTRAM: Uruguay's Government ca lled in the Australian Ambassador to the country last night, to discuss concerns about the seizure of the Viarsa, the Uruguayan-flagged fishing boat that was last week detained by Australian and South African officials after a long pursuit in sub-Antarctic waters. 


The boat is suspected of poaching Patagonian Toothfish.  


Uruguay has been asking for a scientific observer on board the Viarsa to be released and the country's Foreign Affairs Minister was using strong language leading up to last night's meeting. 


But Australia's Fisheries Minister, Ian Macdonald, is unmoved. 


From Perth, David Weber reports.  


DAVID WEBER: The Viarsa's currently south-west of Cape Town and is expected to arrive in Fremantle towards the end of the month. 


Uruguay's Foreign Affairs Minister, Didier Opertti, requested last night's meeting to analyse the situation. Mr Opertti was quoted as saying it needed to be determined whether Australians acted according to the rule of law, or in an abusive interpretation of international law. 


The Fisheries Minister, Ian Macdonald, says he's not worried about any protests.  


IAN MACDONALD: It doesn't raise any particular concerns with me. We're quite confident of our legal position. We've been very careful during every stage of the hot pursuit to make sure that we did comply with international law. We're satisfied that we have, and I'm not too very concerned about the statements alleged to have been made by others. I will add though that we've kept the Uruguayan Government fully informed since day one. 


DAVID WEBER: So, you don't expect this issue to affect diplomatic relations between Australia and Uruguay? 


IAN MACDONALD: We've worked very cooperatively with Uruguay through all stages of this particular incident, and generally. I don't expect that this will have any long-term impact on the relationships between Australia and Uruguay. And in fact, we'll continue to work closely with Uruguay in every aspect of work we undertake to stamp out illegal fishing wherever it occurs. 


DAVID WEBER: Do you expect, reasonably expect, cooperation from Uruguay? I mean, if the allegations are true, then this boat is way out of where it should have been. 


IAN MACDONALD: Well, Uruguay were actually monitoring the ship, although it seems that the vessel monitoring system may have either deliberately or accidentally been malfunctioning. But Uruguay is a member of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, CCAMLR. We have no reason to suspect that Uruguay is otherwise then as determined as we are.  


LINDA MOTTRAM: Fisheries Minister, Ian Macdonald, speaking to David Weber.