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Illegal fishing convictions.

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Last updated: 3 June 2004

Illegal fishing convictions

DAFF04/112M 3 June 2004

Seventeen Indonesian fishermen caught during a blitz on those plundering our fish stocks in Australia's northern waters have been found guilty of illegally fishing when they fronted the Nhulunbuy Court this week.

Those prosecuted include masters of vessels apprehended during Operation Sharkfin, and additional fishers apprehended over the past week. All the masters of vessels apprehended in Operation Sharkfin have now been prosecuted.

One of the masters, a repeat offender, has received a jail term of 40 days. All others were found guilty and received penalties of between $1,000 and $2,000 per charge, and were placed on good behaviour bonds of between two and three years.

The vessels have been forfeited to the Commonwealth and may be released upon the payment of a bond set to the estimated value of the boat. All vessels have also had their fishing gear confiscated.

These charges send the clearest of messages: that illegal fishing is viewed seriously by the Australian Government. Australians should be proud of the vigilance shown by our authorities on the water, not only during specific operations like Sharkfin, but 365 days a year.

Meantime, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Customs and the Royal Australian Navy have reinforced the message of strong protection of our borders and resources by apprehending five illegal fishing boats and, in the process, averting possible tragedy for the crew of one boat.

The five boats were apprehended by HMAS Warnambool, HMAS Bunbury and Australian Customs Vessel (ACV) Roebuck Bay at various locations inside the Australian Fishing Zone in the Gulf of Carpentaria late last week.

HMAS Warnambool had earlier transferred its apprehended vessels to HMAS Bunbury to enable it to remain on task patrolling Australia's northern waters.

During investigations by Customs officers, one of the boats was discovered to be taking on a large amount of water. To ensure their safety, the boat's crew were immediately transferred onto the ACV Roebuck Bay. An attempt to tow the boat to land was abandoned due to safety concerns, and AFMA authorised the vessel to be destroyed at sea.

Given the condition of the boat, it is quite possible the vessel would have sunk before making it back to Indonesia. The captain was charged and fronted court this week.

Further inquiries:

Senator Macdonald's office: David Crisafulli 0400 144 483