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Customs, Navy apprehend iceboat after wild chase.



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Media Release

SENATOR THE HON. CHRISTOPHER ELLISON

Minister for Justice and Customs

Manager of Government Business in the Senate Senator for Western Australia

E137/05 19 October 2005

Customs, Navy apprehend iceboat after wild chase

A Customs patrol boat and the Royal Australian Navy’s newest patrol ship have combined to apprehend a fishing boat carrying a huge quantity of shark fins after a dangerous and difficult chase off northern Australia, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison said today.

Senator Ellison confirmed that the ACV Roebuck Bay and HMAS Armidale were forced to fire warning shots and engage in a hot pursuit after the large Indonesian-flagged iceboat refused to stop inside the Australian Fishing Zone, north of the Wessel Islands, yesterday.

He said the fishing boat crew deployed anti-boarding poles and set them on fire, brandished knives and machetes, and threw lead weights and burning objects at the Customs boarding party.

“After a chase lasting several hours, Customs and Navy officers managed to overcome these obstacles and take control of the fishing boat and its nine crew. HMAS Armidale is now towing the boat to Darwin.

Senator Ellison said such aggression towards the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Customs Service was totally unacceptable.

“The Australian Government has requested the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions review the incident with a view to pursuing the offenders to the full force of Australian law.

“We want to send a clear message that aggression toward our officials on the seas will not be tolerated by Australia, especially within our own territorial waters.”

Preliminary inspection of the iceboat revealed two complete holds full of dried shark fin and more than 50 whole sharks.

“I want to commend the crews of both patrol boats for their courage and skill to stop this fishing boat in the face of extreme provocation.

“This operation highlights the Australian Government’s determination to combat illegal foreign fishing in our northern waters.”

Senator Ellison said the iceboat was fully equipped for commercial fishing operations and carried a Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite phone, depth sounder, radios and detailed charts.

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