Five crew on-board an Indonesian fishing vessel suspected of illegally fishing inside the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) west of Darwin in the Timor Sea have been apprehended.
Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency taskforce within the Australian Border Force (ABF), apprehended the vessel together with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), after fresh fish was detected on-board.
The fishers were observed hauling fish aboard their vessel 2.5 nautical miles (or 4.63 kilometres) inside the AFZ during a MBC patrol by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) vessel HMAS Broome in the early hours of Thursday 19 July 2018.
HMAS Broome was tasked by MBC to respond and subsequently intercepted the vessel. RAN and AFMA officers boarded the vessel and discovered a quantity of reef fish on ice, two live reef fish and 25 kg of bait on board.
The vessel was escorted to Darwin over the weekend and the five crew are facing further investigation by AFMA over possible breaches of Australian fisheries laws.
Acting Commander MBC, Craig Sommerville, said this is a great result for the ongoing preservation of our maritime environment.
“MBC is focused on protecting the AFZ and will look to deter anyone found to be illegally fishing by seizing the vessel and any catch, and may look to prosecute those involved,” Acting Commander Sommerville said.
AFMA’s General Manager of Fisheries Operations, Peter Venslovas, said “the crew will remain in detention while investigations are conducted and the fate of the vessel will be determined in due course, which may involve destruction by incineration”.
“Vessels like this can take over a tonne of fish yet there was only a small quantity of catch on board, which indicates to us that we caught it before it could inflict more damage on Australia’s fish resources” Mr Venslovas said.
“In the past 12 months only 14 illegal foreign fishing vessels were found operating in Australian waters, significantly down from the 350 plus vessels caught in one year just over a decade ago”.