The Australian Fisheries Management Authority credit a reduction in illegal fishing apprehensions with their hard-line policy of burning the vessels of offenders. Credit: AFMA (supplied)
This story should be told in relation to the recent killing of a Korean Coast Guard by the skipper of of Illegal Chinese Fishing Boat.
There are also two more alarming factors that have not been mentioned so far:
1. The arrogant and immoral Chinese Government response was just a pathetic joke – They advised that they have no regret in relation to incident “They are taking the necessary course of action; HELLO! There are 2000 Illegal fishing boats based in China that the Korean Authorities have try & stop from stealing fish from their sovereign waters. This really goes to show that the Chinese Government is very arrogant and doesn’t give a shit AND/OR their relevant Authorities are very incompetent and also don’t give a shit.
Why do you ask ? Because the Chinese Gov’t know that they are South Korea’s biggest customer – HENCE THE ARROGANCE!
2. The very ‘Soft Cock’ Stance the South Korean Gov’t / Authorities have taken towards all these Illegal Fishing Boats to date. The answer that stands out like ‘Dog Balls” ? As mentioned China is soooo important to South Korean financially, they don’t want to upset China too much.
I only hope that one day soon all the other Asian Nations get together and collectively tell China to Back OFF and to Pull their Big Arrogant Heads in.
Source; ABC News
AROUND 8PM ON 25 November, on a warm evening with a brisk breeze in the ocean off Darwin, one of Border Protection’s 38-metre patrol boats intercepted a small, wooden boat with an illegal load.
But it was not a news-grabbing people-smuggling operation that the officers busted. The Indonesian boat was carrying just six crew members, three kilograms of fish, and longlines with freshly-baited hooks. When it was first sighted by the surveillance plane, it looked to be carrying much more fish than the three kilograms it was found with.
This is the most recent case of illegal foreign fishing in Australian waters, the seventh this year. But a few years ago, it was a different story. Some 367 boats were nabbed in 2004, but now it’s down to just 71 since July 2008.
“In the mid 2000s we had peak activity occurring inside our waters, and a lot of effort was put into driving illegal fishers out,” according to Peter Venslovas, Operations Manager at the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). And with success to demonstrate, Australia is exporting its lessons to a world increasingly worried about fish.
Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), stretches between three nautical miles and two hundred nautical miles from our coastline. Only Australian-registered boats are allowed to fish commercially in these waters, and all of these need to have a GPS-assisted vessel monitoring device attached.
Illegal, unreported or unregistered (IUU) fishing occurs mainly in two areas under Australia’s control. In the northern tropical regions, little Indonesian fishing vessels target sharks for their lucrative fins, but also fish for trepang (sea cucumber) and other fish. Around Heard and McDonald Islands in the southern Antarctic regions, bigger refrigerated vessels have been found illegally fishing Patagonian Toothfish on longlines, a fishing method that also endangers other species.
In 2005, Australia put in place a National Plan of Action against illegal fishing (pdf). Rear Admiral Tim Barrett, Commander of Border Protection says, “In 2006/07 specific funding was given to Customs and Border Protection and AFMA to deter illegal foreign fishing in northern waters.” The impetus for funding was propelled out of concern for protection of our own fish stocks, but also by a UN International Plan of Action, signed by 110 nations in 2001.
Between July 2007 and July 2008, 186 boats were apprehended, 141 of these were Indonesian-owned boats. The entire crews were arrested and transferred to immigration detention centres, their boats towed to the nearest port – most often Darwin – and burnt.
The strategy is credited with the rapid decline in arrests. “Since 2006 there has been a marked reduction in sightings of foreign fishing vessels in Australian waters,” says Barrett.
Down south, AFMA are claiming similar success. “We haven’t had any incidents of illegal fishing in our sub-Antarctic regions since January 2004,” says Venslovas.
The Patagonian Toothfish straddles an area half in and half out of Australian waters. To ensure carefully managed Australian fish are not vacuumed up by boats floating on the aquatic border, the various countries that fish in the region – such as France, the UK, and Argentina – have got together as the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to manage fish stocks and report illegal fishing.
But green groups say the Australian government cannot claim victory in the icy waters above Antarctica.”It appears that catch documentation schemes and the high price of fuel may have been significant factors in addressing IUU fishing in remote areas, so I’m not sure it’s a simple case of more patrols and more arrests,” says Tooni Mahto from the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
The environmentalists also have doubts about the Commission’s ability to regulate the pirates, as illegal fishing appears to be continuing apace.
The Fishery Status Report for the Antarctic waters published in October 2011 (pdf) says, “Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing remains a significant obstacle to sustainable management in the high-seas areas of CCAMLR.”
“There was no activity by an Australian vessel in this fishery in 2009 or 2010. In May 2008, an Australian flagged longliner conducted a randomised survey over Banzare1 Bank … but catch rates were very low, indicating that toothfish were depleted.” With few other CCAMLR countries owning up to fishing in the area, it was assumed illegal fishers were to blame.
Why does it matter?
Australia has a lot of water to patrol, with the third largest EEZ in the world. Yet in terms of the amounts of fish caught, Aussies rank 52nd in the world. Despite low volumes, fishing contributes more than $2 billion to the economy every year, employing around 16,000 people. The discrepancy between catch size and income is because Australia tends to focus on species with a high value, such as lobster, prawn, tuna, salmon and abalone.
But seafood is a finite resource. If valuable fish stocks collapse, many regional coastal communities in Australia would be seriously affected.
Australian scientists monitor fish breeding rates and catch rates, estimating the number of fish that can be caught, aiming to leave enough to keep the population going. But the best efforts of Australian scientists who set catch restrictions, and fishermen who play by the rules, can be brought undone by boats plundering our carefully managed waters.
“Unfettered access by illegal foreign fishing vessels undermines the efforts that we’re undertaking nationally to manage our stocks on a sustainable basis,” says Vensolvas.
Mahto is concerned that the science may be wrong because illegal fishing is a wildcard in the calculations. “Illegal fishing, whether it be from Australian fishers under-reporting their catch or from foreign fishing vessels, adds another layer of uncertainty on just how many fish there are left in the sea.”
Mahto strongly believes that Australia’s current fisheries management strategies are not working, and that illegal fishing shouldn’t be put to blame. She says that “foreign illegal fishers cannot be blamed for decades of overfishing sanctioned by the Australian Government”, adding that “there are a number of environmental concerns associated with fisheries managed by Australian authorities, such as the impact of fishing on threatened marine wildlife, such as sharks, turtles and dugongs, and on ocean habitats, such as the impacts of dredging and trawling.”
Blaming overseas interlopers is a convenient excuse for not managing our fish better. “Australia needs to get its own house in order before it can start blaming fishing vessels from other nations for unsustainable fishing practices,” she says.
Challenges without borders
With a global population now at seven billion, and an increasing demand for food, the question is whether the consequences of Australia’s pursuit of illegal fishers is just transferring environmental and social problems elsewhere.
“Depending on the species, you end up chasing them in and out of different countries’ waters. In a lot of the cases, it’s an issue of shared stock, and so it affects everybody,” says Glenn Sant from Traffic, a NGO targeting illegal wildlife trafficking.
But according to Vensolvas current fisheries policy includes more than just apprehensions. AFMA also undertakes in-country activities including education about sustainable fisheries and regional co-operation.
“Countries such as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and other South-East Asian countries need to tackle this problem of illegal fishing on a collective basis regionally, and we have been engaged in a lot of capacity-building projects,” he says.
In 2007, Australia, working with Indonesia, led the establishment of a world-first Regional Plan of Action against illegal fishing that covers eleven countries in South-East Asia. Four years on, the most recent meeting reported there has been progress in introducing harsher legislation in most countries. But education of local fishers on the seriousness of illegal fishing is required, but not yet sufficiently provided.
AFMA has been working together with AusAID to provide training and assistance to fisheries officers in these countries to provide them with the skills to run their own illegal fishing programs. Venslovas says that one of the most important things that other countries might be able to learn from Australia’s successful approach is “cooperation and coordination between government agencies to achieve a common goal”.
“We’re providing training and assistance to fisheries officers from other countries to provide them with skills to run effective compliance programs and run prosecutions – that’s an area that we have been focussing a lot on in the last couple of years.”
But with fish stocks estimated to be all but gone within 40 years, transforming the fishing industries of both Australia and our nearest neighbours will be a race against time.
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