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Parer welcomes 'Big Star' apprehension

The Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Pares, has welcomed the apprehension of the Honduran fishing vessel Big Star, which was allegedly fishing in the Australian exclusive economic zone around Heard Island and McDonald Islands.

The apprehension was made by Australian fisheries officers operating from HMAS Newcastle, and follows the arrest last year of the Salvora and the Aliza Glacial.

Senator Pares said: "The apprehension demonstrates once again that the Howard Government is determined to protect our fishery resources, even in the most remote areas of our exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

"The Government licences Australian operators to fish in the Heard Island and McDonald Islands fishery for toothfish and icefish under tight environmental controls. We are not prepared to allow illegal foreign fishing to ruin this valuable fishery."

The master of the Big Star and other persons could be charged under the Fisheries Management Act. The penalties for illegal foreign fishing include fines of up to $275,000 and the forfeiture of vessels, gear, and catch.

The main species caught in the fishery are Patagonian toothfish and mackerel icefish. Patagonian toothfish is highly regarded as a table fish, and is mainly marketed in Japan, south east Asia, and the United States. Its market value in Japan is about $11/kilogram; a single toothfish can weigh up to 100 kilograms.

Further information

Bill McKinley, Senator Pares's office, 02 6277 7440; 0419 607 487

Internet: releases/pares/index.html