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Illegal fishing blitz helps clear the water.

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DAFF05/061MJ - 27 April 2005

Australian Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation - Senator Ian Macdonald Australian Minister for Justice and Customs - Senator Chris Ellison

Illegal fishing blitz helps clear the water

Australia's largest ever air and sea operation targeting border incursions by foreign fishing boats off our northern coastline has drawn to a close.

Speaking in Fremantle today, Fisheries and Conservation Minister Senator Ian Macdonald, and Justice and Customs Minister Senator Chris Ellison said Operation Clearwater had resulted in the apprehension of 29 illegal fishing boats.

"As a result of this blitz, 64 people will be charged with fishing illegally in Australian waters with a further 16 individuals still under investigation. Ninety six minor crew members have so far been repatriated to Indonesia and 81 are in the process of being repatriated," Senator Macdonald said.

"In all, over 12 tonnes of fish, 300kg of shark fin, 600 shark pieces and over 87 kilometres of longlines have been confiscated during the operation. With further investigations of vessels to take place, these figures are likely to increase."

Senator Ellison said the co-ordinated approach to border patrol was central to the success of the operation.

"Customs Coastwatch, Fisheries, Quarantine and Immigration officers, as well as Navy, Army and Airforce personnel took part in the 11-day operation," Senator Ellison said.

The Australian Government acknowledged the Indonesian Government's involvement in the operation, which saw two Indonesian officials playing a role as observers for the first time.

"The way our authorities worked together during Operation Clearwater augurs well for the future protection of our borders and fish stocks," Senator Ellison said.

Senator Macdonald said the Australian Government would continue to patrol our northern waters.

"Any would-be criminals who think the end of this operation means an end to our strong presence in the north are mistaken," he said.

"We will continue to clamp down on illegal fishermen until the message sinks through that coming into Australian waters is risky business."

Further media inquiries: Senator Macdonald's office: David Crisafulli 07 4771 3066 or 0400 144 483 Senator Ellison's office: Brad Burke 02 6277 7260 or 0417 749 711