MARITIME Border Command within the Australian Border Force, together with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, apprehended a Vietnamese fishing vessel on Thursday, November 3, 2016 near the Saumarez Reefs, about 180 nautical miles northeast of Gladstone.
An MBC surveillance aircraft spotted the illegal foreign fishing vessel about 200 nautical miles inside the Australian exclusive economic zone.
HMAS Maitland was tasked to respond, with Australian Defence Force personnel locating and boarding the vessel on November 3. About two tonnes of bêche-de-mer (sea cucumber) was found on board, along with navigation and fishing equipment. The 16 Vietnamese crew members on board the vessel were apprehended in accordance with their contravention of the AFMA’s Fisheries Management Act 1991.
As the boat was being brought back to Cairns, a fire broke out in the engine room. The HMAS Maitland crew worked quickly to evacuate the Vietnamese fishers onto the Australian ship. Rear Admiral Peter Laver said this apprehension is a testament to the ongoing commitment from Australian government agencies to protect Australia’s unique maritime environment and the sustainability of our marine resources.
“Our officers protect Australia’s maritime domain from threats every single day, with surveillance and response capabilities to ensure our fisheries, as an important economic and environment resource, are maintained and protected,” he said. “It is an example of the dangers that some illegal foreign fishers can pose, not only to our unique marine environment but also to themselves and to our officers.”
AFMA general manager Fisheries Operations Peter Venslovas emphasised the importance of the whole of government approach to protecting our marine resources.
“Illegal fishing undermines the economic and environmental sustainability of Australian fisheries,” he said. “The work and collaborative approach of Australian government agencies, often with our international counterparts, is an integral element in deterring illegal foreign fishing vessels and protecting our marine resources.”
Further investigations will now be undertaken by AFMA. More information on how Australia is working to combat illegal fishing can be found at afma.gov.au