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Australia calls on peak UN fisheries body to take action on illegal fishing.

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Australia calls on peak UN fisheries body to take action on illegal fishing

AFFA03/026M 26 February 2003

Australia has called on UN members to get serious about dealing with the illegal fishing of Patagonian toothfish, and to take immediate action to combat this organised criminal activity.

In a statement delivered to the FAO* Committee on Fisheries being held in Rome this week, the head of the Australian delegation, Glenn Hurry, told delegates that the nature of illegal fishing was changing - we are not just dealing with countries, but more and more with international criminal activity. This organised criminal activity is targeted against countries, the environment and the sustainability of the world's fisheries resources.

"Our statement makes it very clear of the seriousness with which I, and the Australian Government, treat illegal fishing," The Federal Minister for Fisheries, Senator Ian Macdonald, said.

Australia presented information on the illegal trade in toothfish, which showed that a consistent group of countries, 'flag-of-convenience' states, and nationals, are involved in the trade.

Australia has called for the FAO to establish a program of actions that will close the loopholes in current international legal regimes; make states enforce their flag state responsibilities; eliminate forever flag-of-convenience vessel registers and target the beneficial owners of fishing vessels.

"I am delighted that, following our presentation to COFI, Japan has proposed that FAO will hold a conference in early 2004 on illegal fishing where the program of actions proposed by Australia will be addressed," Senator Macdonald said.

"Australia will continue to take every opportunity to draw international attention to the illegal fishing of Patagonian toothfish and those involved, and to encourage those countries committed to the sustainability of the world's fisheries stocks to take decisive, collective action now to eliminate this illegal trade," Senator Macdonald said.

*The Committee on Fisheries of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN is the peak UN body on fisheries. It meets biennially at FAO's headquarters in Rome.

A copy of the statement is available on request

Further inquiries: Senator Macdonald's office:

Kelly Stevens (02) 6277 7270 or 0405 191 732