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Friday, 6 December 1985
Page: 3219


Senator VIGOR(3.39) —For the record I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a document detailing the current boundaries of the Ashmore reef and the declaration of it as a natural reserve.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

Ext. Terr. 4

Ashmore Reef

State...

Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands (Commonwealth External Territory).

Name...

Ashmore Reef.

Designation...

National nature reserve.

Location number...

4.

Date of declaration...

28 July 1983.

Legislation under which area was declared...

National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act.

Managing authority...

Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Enforcement agency...

To be determined.

Enforcement agea...

High Water Mark to the sea floor (includes 40m below the sea floor) at the designated superjacent waters.

Position...

12*15'00''S, 123*05'00''E (approximately).

Locality...

Indian Ocean, off the North West coast of Australia.

Map reference

Size (hectares)...

58,300 (including cays).

Proximity of major centre...

840km west from Darwin, 640km north-north-west of Broome.

Primary purpose(s) of the protected area...

Protection of marine and terrestrial fauna and flora, especially seabirds, turtles and seasnakes.

Management feature...

Conservation.

Major habitat types...

Coral reef; sandy cays; vegetated isles and lagoonal areas.

Outstanding physical, biological or other features...

Extensive seabird colonies; breeding areas for turtles; abundant and diverse species of sea-snakes.

Known endangered species and known threats to area...

Traditional use of seabirds and turtles breeding by Indonesian fishermen has occurred around the islands within the Reserve for many years and has become a problem since the mid 1970's, when the number of fishermen increased substantially. Threats include decimation of seabird and turtle populations; possible overfishing.

Prohibited activities...

To be determined in Management Plan and as prescribed in the NPWC Act and Regulations.

Permitted activities

Proposed by...

Interdepartmental Committee on Destruction of Flora and Fauna on Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Novermber 1982.

CONCOM workshop designation...

To be determined.

Other comments...

This region is a major coral reef province: Ashmore Reef is representative of an oceanic, outer shelf reef and atoll which has arisen from the edge of the Sahul Shelf. A number of species of seabird present in the area are included in the Annex to the Japan-Australia Migratory Birds Agreement-


Senator VIGOR —I thank the Senate. I point out that Cartier Island has no such protection and I believe that it should. Just to make my point very clear, I also seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an article from the Northern Territory News which is headed: `Fishing Ban on Ashmore' dated 23 January 1984. I think this makes out the case very strongly.

Leave granted.

The article read as follows-

FISHING BAN ON ASHMORE

Territory fishermen are likely to be banned from the recently declared Ashmore Island National Park area.

Foreign Minister, Mr Bill Hayden, said this on Saturday during a brief stop-over in Darwin on his way to the Middle-East.

The Ashmore group of islands was declared a national park last August. The Australian National Parks and Wildlife Services (ANPWS) was to draw a management plan for the park which did not exclude the possibility of commercial fishing operations in the area.

In October the NT Primary Production Minister, Mr Ian Tuxworth, sought assurances from his federal counterpart, Mr John Kerin, that the Territory's fishing industry would not suffer as a consequence of the declaration of the national park.

Talks between the NT Fisheries division and the ANPWS have been going on since then.

While Australian commerical operations are likely to be excluded, Indonesian fishermen continue to use the Ashmore reef. They are also allowed to land on the island for fresh supplies of water.

Permit

When asked why the Indonesians were allowed to fish in Australian waters but Australians were not, Mr Hayden said the same situation existed in the Torres Strait islands.

``Traditional Torres Strait Islanders and Papuans can fish there but we do not permit commercial fishing,'' he said.

``It is the same with Ashmore. Traditional Indonesian fishermen have been using those waters for generations.

So when the park was declared in August we decided to continue with the arrangement.

``It was an arrangement signed in 1974 with the Indonesian Government.''

Mr Hayden admitted it would be difficult to ensure the Indonesians were bona-fide traditional fishermen and not commercial operators.

He said when the decision to establish a national park was taken by the Federal Government the Indonesians had been informed but, Mr Hayden added: ``I am not sure that they answered.''

``In any case it's our territory. There is no doubt about that,'' he said.

The news is likely to cause consternation in the Territory's fishing industry which is now undergoing profound structural changes to gear for deep-water fishing.

Mr Tuxworth was not available for comment.

In a related development, sources quoting from confidential documents said the Federal Government was likely to declare a moratorium on Indonesian fishing operations.

Slaughter

This was because the Indonesians have engaged in the wholesale slaughter of rare birds and protected marine life such as turtles and clams.

Although the Australian Navy patrols the area regularly and the matter has been raised with the Indonesian Government, it has not stopped the fishermen from destroying Ashmore's flora and fauna.

Under an agreement with Japan, Australia is obliged to protect migratory bird species that use the Ashmore and Cartier Islands as sanctuaries.

The Indonesians have apparently also introduced cholera in the island making it dangerous for Australian seismic crews who use Ashmore to monitor earthquakes in the region.

The Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Mochtar, has been contacted for his reaction to the possible exclusion of Indonesian fishermen from the Ashmore National Park, but so far, there has been no reply.

Discuss

Immediately after his return from the Middle East and Africa, Mr Hayden will attend the February ASEAN conference in Jakarta.

There is no doubt the Indonesians will discuss the matter then.

Mr Hayden said the NT government would be kept informed of the progress on the border talks between Indonesia and Australia.