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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Poached fish; keeping foreign fishing vessels out
The problem of illegal fishing off Australias northern coast is a problem that refuses to sink.
Last year a record 600 plus boats were captured in northern waters. Yet there were an estimated 8000 sightings.
Already this year more than 30 have been caught. Crews are frequently fined and jailed and their boats destroyed.
The head of Coastwatch admitted to a Senate Estimates Committee recently that there was no way of knowing exactly how many foreign fishing boats are in Australian waters.
Authorities have found boats with valuable hauls of fish, trochus shell and shark fin.
A Panamanian registered ship, suspected of illegal fishing activity, was recently towed into Darwin harbour with 640 tonnes of fish on board.
About half the catch on board the 75-metre steel hulled freighter was made up of species that Kimberley professional fishermen catch.
It sparked concerns that fish stocks are being depleted.
Fishermen already have fears of piracy and warn its only a matter of time before theres an "international incident".
New Federal Fisheries Minister Eric Abetz arrived in the Kimberley this week on his first visit to WA since taking over the portfolio from Ian MacDonald.
Senator Abetz was concerned at the impact illegal fishing was having on Australian interests.
Members of the Aboriginal community One Arm Point, north of Broome, told the Minister it will lose a million dollars in revenue if poaching of its trochus stocks continue.
However Senator Abetz could not offer immediate solutions or guarantee resources until hed found out what all the stakeholders needed.
Opposition leader Kim Beazley is more certain; he wants a full time Coastguard deployed to patrol the border out of bases in Broome and Darwin.
Mr Beazley says the Government is all talk and no action and too many fishing boats are getting away.
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Impacts/Environment, biodiversity and fish stocks
Issues/Flag state issues