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Budget 2005: Long-term commitment to Southern Ocean armed patrols.

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Home | Media Releases DAFF05/078MJ - 10 May 2005

Australian Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation - Senator Ian Macdonald Australian Minister for Justice and Customs - Senator Chris Ellison

Long-term commitment to Southern Ocean armed patrols

Regular armed patrols of remote Australian waters in the Southern Ocean will continue until at least 2010, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, and the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald, announced today.

Senator Ellison and Senator Macdonald said the Government's decision to provide continued funding for the armed patrol programme represented a long-term commitment to protecting Australia's sovereign interests and Australian fish stocks in its territorial waters surrounding Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI).

Funding of $217.2 million will be made available between 2005-06 and 2009-10 to support the armed patrol programme. The programme also includes funding for Fisheries officers to participate in French patrols in the Southern Ocean.

Senator Ellison said the long-term extension of funding for the programme until at least

2009-10 made a mockery of claims by the Federal Opposition that the Government's protection of the remote but important Australian territory in the Southern Ocean was a short-term, stop-gap measure.

"In December 2003, the Howard Government responded decisively to the continued poaching of the valuable Patagonian toothfish from our waters by announcing that we would conduct year-round armed patrols using specially equipped Customs and Fisheries patrol boats. The 2004 Budget provided funding of nearly $90 million for the programme," Senator Ellison said.

Senator Macdonald said the Government's announcement would send a clear message to illegal toothfish poachers.

"To date, we have apprehended eight vessels suspected of illegally fishing in the Southern Ocean and we have demonstrated our willingness to pursue such vessels half way around the world. We will continue to vigorously protect our fishing zones against international criminals poaching in our waters and work with other responsible nations to curb illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing," Senator Macdonald said.

"Our cooperation with France will allow our Fisheries officers to frequently participate in French patrols and vice-versa, in waters surrounding Australian and French Southern Ocean territories. This will effectively double the capacity of our present program in the

Southern Ocean.

"Already these patrols - including those by the Oceanic Viking -have proved an effective deterrent to illegal fishers in the HIMI. A recent patrol also exposed a large number of vessels fishing in waters outside Australia's territory managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) that were flagged to

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non CCAMLR nations.

"Enhancement of the patrol programme, coupled with the strong relationships we have forged with other nations, such as New Zealand, France, South Africa and the UK, will only serve to strengthen our ability to protect Southern Ocean resources - and ensure the survival of the Patagonian toothfish fishery," Senator Macdonald said.

When not engaged in Southern Ocean patrols, the Oceanic Viking may also be deployed in a broader border protection role to support other operations in Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone.

Further media inquiries:

Senator Macdonald's office: David Crisafulli 02 6277 7270 or 0400 144 483 Senator Ellison's office: Brad Burke 02 6277 7260 or 0417 749 711

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