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Montevideo, December 18th 2018 - 21:30 UTC

Australia releases Viarsa 1 observer.

Thursday, September 11th 2003 - 21:00 UTC
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The Uruguayan scientific observer who was on board the longliner Viarsa 1 was released Wednesday 10 September and brought ashore at Cape Town, South Africa. He will be returning to Uruguay immediately.

This is a major step forwards for the investigations that the authorities are carrying out here, said a Uruguayan Foreign Office spokesman.

The Uruguayan Foreign Office and its Australian counterpart have agreed to cooperate in presenting evidence at legal proceedings taking place in both countries. They are also seeking agreement over the facts of this case and to ensure that Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) regulations are applied.

Uruguayan Directorate of Aquatic Resources (Dinara) director Captain Yamandú Flangini, told Parliament that the Viarsa 1 was allowed to fish in international waters, outside the area regulated by the CCAMLR.

On 7 August, when satellite and radio contact was lost, the vessel was commanded to return to the port of Montevideo. On 13 September, the Viarsa reported by radio and fax as fishing in an authorised area of the Atlantic ocean.

Flangini believes the satellite transmitter was not working properly and he said it was important to report this at an international level because it would mean the system it is not totally reliable for any country.

In October 2002, during the CCAMLR Permanent Committee of Observation and Inspection meeting, US delegates said the mechanical VMS (Vessel Monitoring System), which allows the crew to enter information about vessel location, did not comply with the requirements of conservation measure 148/XX, and should therefore not be referred to as automated VMS.

The Viarsa 1 case will no doubt reinforce the opinions of several member countries and environmental organisations who are calling for CCAMLR to run a centralised satellite monitoring system to prevent similar cases.

Viarsa 1 was detained 28 August, following a 21-day chase, for alleged poaching of Patagonian toothfish in Australian territorial waters, off the Heard and McDonald islands (HMI), and it is now returning to Australia via South Africa

Decision on Volga arrest delayed

An Australian Federal Court Judge has reserved his decision on whether Australian Fisheries Officers acted lawfully in seizing the Russian-flagged fishing vessel Volga for alleged illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean two years ago.

But Justice French warned those who are seeking to have the vessel returned to its owners, that Australian law would remain the guiding hand in his decision making. The boat's owners are seeking return of the vessel plus compensation for loss of income and cargo.

Officers from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority seized the vessel's cargo - approximately 136 tonnes of Patagonian toothfish - which was later sold for AUD 1.9 million by public tender.

The money is held in escrow pending the civil and criminal cases surrounding the interception and seizure, and may be used to pay any compensation if the Australian Federal Court finds that the seizure was illegal. Lawyers for the company, Olber, have entered argument attacking the procedural details surrounding the seizure.

The case is significant in establishing future precedents in such seizures.

Three members of the Volga crew face criminal charges under Australian law and are due to face trial in May of next year for being in possession of Patagonian toothfish caught illegally in Australian waters. (FIS/MP).-

Categories: Falkland Islands.

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