Australia will be protecting her interests in the Southern Ocean with a permanent armed patrol capability beginning next July, announced Australian officials this Monday in a statement emphasizing the government's strong stand against illegal fishing. In 2003 only Australia managed a record 138 apprehensions along her vast 37,000 kilometers coastline.
"There has been no change in the Australian Government's strong stands against illegal fishing", stressed the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, and the Minister for Fisheries, Senator Ian Macdonald.
Australian Customs and Navy vessels have had the ability for several years to either apprehend illegal fishing boats or conduct "administrative seizures" of catch and gear ? an ability which was supported even by Labor MPs when the Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) 1999 was voted.
"Administrative seizures are necessary as they allow the men and women of the Australian Customs Service and Royal Australian Navy the utmost flexibility to make decisions based on operational requirements when they encounter illegal fishers.
"In every instance where a Customs patrol boat comes alongside an illegal fishing vessel, the evidence is assessed before a decision is made to either seize or apprehend in consultation with AFMA.
"This increase has prompted border protection agencies, including Customs, to look at the best way to deal with situations where there may be a large number of illegal vessels entering Australian waters at the one time". Australia has a mounting problem along its northern coastline facing Indonesia.
"The number one priority of Customs patrol boats is targeting vessels that may be smuggling illegal arrivals and contraband, with illegal fishing by Indonesian vessels also targeted. This is a practical approach based on the high number of illegal vessels that may enter Australian waters at certain times of the year.
"Australia's fisheries have never been more secure than today, with Customs Coastwatch and the Royal Australian Navy working together with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to protect our precious fishing stocks," Senator Macdonald said.