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Tuesday, 21 August 1984
Page: 83

(Question No. 944)

Senator Chipp asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment, upon notice, on 5 June 1984:

(1) Has the attention of the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment been drawn to a report in the Darwin Advertiser of 17 May 1984 stating that Ashmore Reef Marine Park is under threat from Indonesian fishermen, in particular from the use of explosives, over fishing of clams, and contamination of water supplies.

(2) Is the Minister satisfied with the surveillance of this area carried out by patrols of the Royal Australian Navy; if not, will the Minister take action to ensure the appointment of at least one full time ranger by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service to be permanently stationed in the nature reserve.

Senator Ryan —The Minister for Home Affairs and Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes.

At the time the Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve was declared, I gave an assurance that the priviliges afforded traditional Indonesian fishermen, under the memorandum of understanding concluded in 1974, would be maintained.

Since that time, the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service (ANPWS) has become aware of a number of breaches of the memorandum of understanding. These offences include the taking of seabirds and their eggs, the killing of turtles, damage to vegetation, and unauthorised landings.

Reports of the use of explosives by the Indonesian fishermen have not been substantiated. The contamination of the water in the well on Middle Island by cholera vibrios cannot be directly attributed to its usage by the Indonesian fishermen, as contamination from other sources is a possibility.

(2) ANPWS is regularly sending wardens to the reserve on RAN patrol boats and, on occasion, in chartered vessels. Coastwatch aircraft patrol the reserve on a random basis. At this stage, the permanent stationing of ranger staff on such small islands 450 kilometres from the nearest Australian port is not considered the most suitable option for protection of the area.

ANPWS is currently investigating, in collaboration with other Commonwealth departments, improved mechanisms for law enforcement in the nature reserves.