An Indonesian fishing vessel suspected of illegally fishing in Australian waters has been apprehended off north-west Western Australia in an operation undertaken by the Australian Border Force (ABF) Maritime Border Command (MBC) and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).
On June 22, the vessel was first detected by MBC aerial surveillance approximately 27 nautical miles south of Browse Island inside the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ). MBC, a multi-agency taskforce within the ABF, continued its monitoring and sighted the vessel actively fishing inside the AFZ from 22–25 June.
Australian Defence Vessel HMAS Maitland, under the command of MBC, intercepted the vessel on June 25. A subsequent search of the vessel located approximately 50 kilograms of fish meat and ten shark fins, with deployed fishing gear sighted in the water. The crew were detained and transferred to Darwin. The vessel was assessed as being unseaworthy and sunk.
Commander Maritime Border Command, Rear Admiral Lee Goddard, said the apprehension highlighted the ongoing strong maritime posture of MBC.
“The ABF, through MBC, continues to maintain a strong and agile presence around Australia’s coastline to detect and respond to illegal foreign fishing and other civil maritime security threats,” Rear Admiral Goddard said.
“We are resolutely committed to upholding the integrity of the border and protecting Australia’s unique environmental and marine assets,” he said.
AFMA’s General Manager of Fisheries Operations, Peter Venslovas, said the crew are being detained in Darwin, while AFMA investigates any possible breaches under the Fisheries Management Act 1991.
“Ensuring Australia’s marine resources are protected from risks posed by illegal fishing is a priority for AFMA, and we will continue to work with MBC to detect and prosecute offenders,” Mr Venslovas said.
Anyone with information about potential illegal foreign fishing is encouraged to report it to the ABF’s Border Watch program by visiting www.australia.gov.au/borderwatch. Any suspected illegal, unregulated or unreported fishing by Australian vessels can be reported to CRIMFISH on 1800 287 364 or by visiting afma.gov.au.