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Indonesian fishing boats seized in Torres Strait region.

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Federal Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald Federal Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison

AFFA02/178MJ 12 September 2002

Indonesian fishing boats seized in Torres Strait region

Two Indonesian fishing vessels were last night seized inside the Torres Strait Protected Zone, approximately 110 kilometres north-west of Thursday Island.

Federal Ministers Senator Ian Macdonald and Senator Chris Ellison praised the work of Customs, Coastwatch and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) in working together to apprehend the two boats.

Senator Ellison, the Federal Justice and Customs Minister, said that the two vessels, with a total of 11 crew on board, were spotted last night by a Coastwatch aircraft and later apprehended by a Fisheries Officer on board the Australian Customs’ vessel Botany Bay in the vicinity of Turu Cay, an island in Torres Strait.

Senator Macdonald, the Minister responsible for Commonwealth fisheries, said the apprehension of the vessels with fresh catch, a dugong, birds’ eggs and equipment was a significant operation in protecting Australian resources.

“The boats were escorted to Thursday Island where the skippers are to be interviewed in relation to a range of offences under the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984,” Senator Macdonald said.

“Australian authorities have conducted an increasing number of patrols and sweeps through the Torres Strait Protected Zone, and adjacent Australian Fishing Zone, in response to growing numbers of incursions by illegal fishing vessels.”

“These latest apprehensions were part of a coordinated response between Papua New Guinea and Australian authorities,” Senator Ellison said.

“The two apprehensions bring to 19 the number of vessels apprehended by Australian authorities in the western Torres Strait since the beginning of 2002 alone.

Further inquiries:

Senator Macdonald's office: Kelly Stevens 0405 191 732. Senator Ellison's office: Mairi Barton 0439 300 335. AFMA: Simon Latimer (02) 6272 4844.

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