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Wednesday, 1 November 2000
Page: 2185821858

Mr WAKELIN (3:00 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Would the minister outline the benefits Australia can expect to gain from the fisheries convention signed by the Prime Minister in Kiribati? How will the establishment of a commission on highly migratory fish stocks in the Central and Western Pacific assist the Australian tuna industry?

Mr TRUSS (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —My thanks to the member for Grey for this important question. I acknowledge the great significance of the fishing industry in his own electorate and the powerful way in which he represents their interests in this parliament. Yesterday the Prime Minister, when reporting on his attendance at the Pacific Islands Forum, referred to signing the important Convention on Conservation and Management of the Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Central and Western Pacific Region. This convention has the potential to significantly advance the sustainable management of the fishing resources of the region. The negotiations to this convention have been going on now for six years between Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands and, of course, some of the important fishing countries in the region such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The fact that this agreement has been reached is certainly a significant milestone. The tuna fisheries in Australia are worth something like $60 million, and we are naturally anxious to ensure that the stocks are sustainably managed so that this industry can continue to contribute towards our economy. The convention will establish a commission into the management of these stocks and will place particular emphasis on issues such as an effective decision making process and dispute settlement arrangements. The commission will aim to sustainably manage the highly migratory fish stocks of the region, particularly tuna and shark, and will look at minimising any adverse environmental impacts from fishing.

From our perspective, the next step will be to negotiate and discuss the issues with the relevant parties so that Australia can proceed towards ratification of the treaty at the earliest possible occasion. Under this convention, the Australian east coast tuna fishery can look forward to an improved management regime for marine resources in the region and the setting of allocation, particularly total allocation catches, for all the fishers in the region. It will require vessel monitoring systems throughout the region and, of course, better research into stock numbers and greater certainty about the long-term future of the industry. This is a significant breakthrough, and the fact that the Prime Minister was able to sign this convention on Australia's behalf at this forum demonstrates the great significance that our nation places on fish management issues. I believe that this is a significant step forward for Australia's $60 million tuna industry.