The Royal Australian Navy, working closely the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) under the coordination of Border Protection Command (BPC), has apprehended four foreign fishing vessels with a total of 58 crew approximately 180 nautical miles North West of Darwin.
The wooden vessels were intercepted last week by HMA Ships Launceston and Glenelg.
The vessels were boarded by AFMA fisheries officers and BPC-assigned personnel. Over 60 giant clams were found on board the vessels as well as a large quantity in their holds. Several drums were found to contain a large quantity of Beche De Mer (Sea Cucumber) and a number of assorted fish.
Commander BPC, Rear Admiral Michael Noonan, said the apprehension was the result of strong cooperation between BPC and AFMA to protect Australia’s maritime borders and our marine life.
“Border Protection Command will continue to take action alongside our partners to protect our precious marine life from the threat of illegal foreign fishing,” Rear Admiral Noonan said.
AFMA acting General Manager Operations, Tod Spencer, said that regular patrols of Australia’s maritime borders are a strong deterrent to illegal foreign fishers with the amount of illegal fishing decreasing significantly over the years.
“Our partnerships with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the Australian Defence Force provide a strong line of defence against illegal foreign fishers who threaten our unique marine life. We will continue to catch and prosecute these fishers when they enter Australian waters,” Mr Spencer said.
Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, said that the apprehensions highlighted the diversity of Navy’s role in Australia’s northern waters.
“The apprehensions carried out by HMA Ships Launceston and Glenelg this week demonstrate that very important work is being done across a range of responsibilities by Navy’s patrol boat crews and the wider Customs and Border Protection Service organisation.”
The vessels will be towed to Darwin where they will be inspected by AFMA and Biosecurity officials. The future of the vessels is yet to be determined.
The first vessel with 18 crew members will arrive in Darwin on Thursday evening, with the remaining vessels and 40 crew members arriving Saturday morning. All 58 crew members will be taken to the Northern Immigration Centre.
AFMA will further investigate the activities of the vessel and may lay charges against the crew.
Press Release, March 18, 2014; Image: Royal Australian Navy