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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7659

Senator O'Brien asked the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, upon notice, on 4 October 2002:

With reference to the Minister's answer to question on notice no. 489, and specifically parts (1) and (2):

(1) What was the cost to the Australian government of the 2001 operation to apprehend the South Tomi using South African navy vessels.

(2) (a) What assistance has South Africa provided in approaching other countries to address specific incidents of illegal fishing; and (b) can details be provided of these incidents and of the assistance provided by the South African government in each case.

(3) (a) When have formal negotiations with South Africa occurred with respect to concluding a formal agreement on cooperation to combat illegal fishing; and (b) who is leading these negotiations on behalf of the Australian government.

(4) (a) When have formal negotiations with France occurred with respect to concluding a formal agreement on cooperation to combat illegal fishing; (b) who is leading these negotiations on behalf of the Australian government; and (c) when is it expected that these negotiations will conclude.

(5) Since 1996, has any direct minister-to-minister contact occurred with respect to cooperation with other countries on combating illegal fishing; if so, can details of these occasions be provided, including the countries concerned and the ministers engaged in this contact.

Senator Ian Macdonald (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) The total additional cost incurred (above normal patrol costs) by the Australian Government in apprehending the South Tomi and escorting it to Fremantle was approximately $1.232 million. This includes the cost of additional sea days (above normal patrol duration) spent by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority's (AFMA's) civil charter vessel Southern Supporter in hot pursuit and post apprehension escort of the South Tomi, additional fuel, and reimbursement of fuel costs to the Government of South Africa for their patrol vessels used in the apprehension.

(2) (a) Earlier in 2002, Australia sought the assistance of South Africa in making representations to Mozambique authorities to prevent the unloading of toothfish at the port of Maputo in Mozambique by two Uruguayan-flagged vessels that had been engaged in illegal fishing in waters falling under the management regime of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Australia approached fisheries authorities in Mozambique directly urging them not to allow these vessels to unload their catch. South Africa undertook similar approaches to Mozambique authorities. (b) See 2(a) above.

(3) (a) I wrote to my South African Ministerial counterpart in September 2002 to initiate discussions on the text of an agreement with South Africa to provide for cooperate action against illegal fishing. Informal discussions also took place at officials' level in late October 2002. (b) The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (AFFA) and the Commonwealth Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) portfolios will jointly lead negotiations assisted primarily by the portfolios of the Attorney General's Department (AGs) and Defence with involvement from other portfolios on an as needed basis.

(4) (a) Negotiations have occurred intermittently at both the Ministerial level and officials level for more than three years. (b) As is the case with negotiations with South Africa, AFFA and DFAT have usually jointly led negotiations assisted by AGs and Defence with involvement from other portfolios as needed. (c) Negotiations have concluded on a proposed draft text at the officials level subject to whole-of-government clearance by each country.

(5) Since 1996 there has been frequent Minister-to-Minister contact regarding cooperation on the issue of IUU fishing. It is not feasible to provide a full list; opportunities have been taken during bilateral visits, at international meetings and through correspondence and other available avenues. For example, in recent months, in the lead up to the CCAMLR meeting in Hobart in late October, I wrote to my Ministerial counterparts with responsibility for fisheries issues in those States which are also signatories to the CCAMLR Convention urging them to support efforts by Australia and other States to combat IUU fishing.

Similarly, my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator the Hon Sharman Stone, wrote to Ministers with responsibility for CCAMLR matters in countries that are also signatories to the CCAMLR Convention urging them to support Australia's efforts to combat the IUU fishing in the Southern Ocean. Australian officials also made numerous representations to officials in other CCAMLR countries seeking their support for the suite of measures Australia was proposing at CCAMLR XXI to combat IUU fishing. Australian officials also made representations to CITES Parties in the lead up to the Conference of Parties this month to seek support for Australia's proposal to list Patagonian toothfish on Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).