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Monday, 9 December 2002
Page: 7520

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. 490 (Senate Hansard, 17 September 2002, p. 4251), and specifically parts (2), (3) and (4):

(1) Which country proposed the catch documentation scheme for Patagonian toothfish adopted at the eighteenth meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

(2) Has the Commission or the Australian Government conducted an assessment of the effectiveness of the scheme since it commenced operation on 7 May 2000; if so, what was the result of the assessment.

(3) (a) Which countries have been identified as key flag states of illegal or suspected illegal vessels by the Australian government; and (b) which of these countries have not been subject to direct representations from the Australian Government.

(4) Can a list be provided of the `well over 100' countries that have been the subject of Australian negotiating efforts in respect to combating illegal fishing.

(5) What measures will be included in the package Australia is taking to the next annual meeting of the Commission to improve efforts to combat illegal fishing.

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

(1) I refer to my response to QON 490, part 2. Australia was the first country to propose that the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) adopt a Catch Documentation Scheme for toothfish and to propose a model for the Scheme. In later discussions by the Commission, the United States and the European Community also proposed alternative models. The Scheme that was finally adopted by CCAMLR drew heavily on the Australian proposal and also on the United States proposal.

(2) Yes. A review of the Scheme is a standing agenda item at the CCAMLR annual meetings in October. Both Australian agencies and the CCAMLR have reviewed the operation of the Catch Documentation Scheme.

As a result of those assessments, each year since its introduction, the Commission has continued to refine the Catch Documentation Scheme to improve its operation and to counter activities of illegal fishers who seek fraudulent access to the Scheme.

(3) (a) Uruguay, Russia, Belize, Bolivia, Seychelles. (b) Bolivia.

(4) No. It is not feasible to compile a list of countries that have been the subject of Australian negotiating efforts concerning IUU fishing, given that negotiations have been undertaken at every opportunity formally and informally and at a bilateral and multilateral level. Further, negotiations have been undertaken by Ministers and Australian Government officials across a number of portfolios.

By way of recent example, Australia is a contracting party to both the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (the CCAMLR Convention). CCAMLR has 24 Members and seven additional States that have acceded to the Convention. There are also over 150 Parties to the CITES Convention. In the lead up to the recent 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 which 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.

In terms of Australia's proposal to nominate toothfish to Appendix II of CITES, formal discussions were undertaken earlier this month at the Conference of Parties (COP) in Santiago, Chile. In addition, in developing the CITES nomination for toothfish, Environment Australia wrote to all CITES States that are range States for Patagonian Toothfish and to all CCAMLR Members to seek comments on Australia's proposal. Australian officials also made representations to CITES Parties in the lead up to the COP to seek support for Australia's proposal to list Patagonian toothfish on Appendix II of CITES.

(5) At CCAMLR XXI, Australia put forward a package of initiatives to combat IUU fishing, including:

· an extension of the CCAMLR boundary to encompass the entire range of Toothfish species aimed at removing the loophole of illegal fishers claiming that illegally caught fish come from high seas areas outside the Convention boundary;

· agreement to a centralised vessel monitoring system (VMS) to ensure that VMS is harmonised across CCAMLR Member States, minimum standards are met and provide independent verification where there are disputes over VMS information;

· recognition of CCAMLR as a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) under the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) - this would provide another set of compliance and monitoring measures available to be used against those CCAMLR Members that are also Parties to UNFSA. Such recognition will potentially allow Australia and other coastal States to apply the UNFSA boarding regime, a stronger high seas regime than that existing under CCAMLR, to apply to all UNFSA Parties;

· the strengthening of the Catch Documentation Scheme in order to reduce fraudulent documentation and improve verification procedures; and

· modification of the application of Article 73(2) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides for the prompt release of a vessel and crew upon posting of a reasonable bond or other security, so that it would not apply to vessels or support craft apprehended for IUU fishing within the CCAMLR Convention area.