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Southern Ocean patrol exposes toothfish boats outside Australian waters.

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Last updated: 23 December 2005

Southern Ocean patrol exposes toothfish boats outside Australian waters

DAFF05/255MJ 23 December 2005

The armed Australian patrol ship Oceanic Viking has uncovered further evidence of fishing boats operating in Antarctic waters, but outside Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in contravention of an international agreement designed to protect valuable species such as the Patagonian toothfish.

The Australian Government Ministers for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald and Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, today confirmed the Oceanic Viking had detected nine unregulated fishing boats during its current patrol of the Southern Ocean.

Senator Macdonald said the Oceanic Viking observed the nine vessels in the BANZARE Bank area, just outside Australia’s Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) EEZ.

“Five of the nine were observed fishing in an area regulated by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) Commission,” Senator Macdonald said. “Based on the location and evidence collected, it is highly probable the other four were also engaged in fishing.

“This type of unregulated fishing undermines the strict conservation measures CCAMLR has put in place to protect our fragile Southern Ocean ecosystem and valuable Patagonian toothfish stocks.”

The nine vessels the Oceanic Viking detected were the Sargo, Hammer, Ross, Condor, North Ocean, South Ocean, East Ocean, West Ocean and the Odin. Information obtained from the vessels indicates they were flagged to Togo, China and Cambodia; however, this information requires confirmation from the alleged flag-States. Their detection follows a recent sighting by Australia’s Antarctic research and resupply ship, the Aurora Australis, of IUU fishing vessels in a CCAMLR area that was closed at the time to fishing by CCAMLR members.

“Many of these boats are re-flagged and renamed between trips, highlighting the problem we face in ensuring that countries operate transparent ship registers and impose adequate controls on the vessels they flag,” Senator

Macdonald said. “We will continue our diplomatic efforts with these countries to address the increasing problem of unregulated fishing in CCAMLR waters.”

Senator Ellison said the Oceanic Viking was proving an effective deterrent to fish poachers.

“On this patrol so far, it has cleared the Australian HIMI EEZ and, under a cooperation treaty with the French Government, the French EEZ around Kerguelen Island,” Senator Ellison said.

"The vessel’s demonstrated capability to operate in such a remote and hostile area should send a strong message to vessels targeting the valuable Patagonian toothfish in contravention of international conservation and management measures, and the nations that support them. Australia will confront, expose and apprehend those involved in such activity wherever it can.”

EDITORS: High-resolution images of the Oceanic Viking and some recently sighted vessels are available at Customs

Further inquiries:

Senator Macdonald’s office: David Crisafulli 0400 144 483

Senator Ellison’s office Brad Burke 0417 749 711

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