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Eight illegal fishing boats seized in past 48 hours.

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Eight illegal fishing boats seized in past 48 hours

AFFA03/087M 15 May 2003

Two Royal Australian Navy patrol boats, and a Customs vessel, are heading to Darwin as they escort eight illegal fishing vessels, which were apprehended off Australia's northern coastline in the past three days.

Federal Fisheries Minister Senator Ian Macdonald said a combination of good weather and relatively calm seas had resulted in increased numbers of illegal fishing boats off Arnhem Land, and in the Gulf of Carpentaria (see attached map).

Senator Macdonald said the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) had advised him that eight boats, with a total of 51 crew on board, were now under escort, and were due to start arriving in Darwin from tomorrow onwards (Friday).

"All the boats were apprehended well inside the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ), which extends out to 200 nautical miles. The first was seized on Monday night, and the latest on Wednesday morning (May 14)," Senator Macdonald said.

"The boats were all motorised, and were from the Indonesian ports of Merauke on Irian Jaya, and Dobo in the Aru Islands, and they were targeting shark fin.

"I congratulate the work done by the crews of the two Navy patrol boats involved, HMAS Geraldton and HMAS Geelong, in apprehending seven illegal vessels while the Australian Customs Vessel Botany Bay seized the eighth boat.

"The Government will continue its strong approach to protecting Australia's borders and this has been reinforced with additional funding provided in the this week's Budget for Defence, Customs and AFMA.

"When the vessels reach Darwin, the skippers will be interviewed in relation to offences under the Fisheries Management Act, which carry heavy fines. Their boats have also been forfeited.

Senator Macdonald said 43 boats had now been apprehended for illegal fishing in Australian waters since the beginning of the year.

Further inquiries:

Senator Macdonald's office: Philip Connole (02) 6277 7270 or 0417 063 605 AFMA (operational issues): Simon Latimer 0409 567424