Former Ministers media release
Australia will pursue suspect fishing vessel indefinitely - Thursday, 14th August 2003
Joint Media Release - Senator Chris Ellison, Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ian Macdonald, Minister for Fisheries, Foresty and Conservation and Dr Sharman Stone MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment
The Australian Government today confirmed that it was prepared to pursue indefinitely a vessel suspected of fishing illegally in Australia's sub-Antarctic waters.
Fisheries Minister, Senator Ian Macdonald, said the Australian Customs and Fisheries patrol ship, Southern Supporter, would pursue the Viarsa until it either reached a suitable port or headed to Australia.
"We will do whatever it takes, no matter how long it takes, to see that the vessel is thoroughly investigated for suspected breaches of our Fisheries Management Act," Senator Macdonald said.
"At a diplomatic level, Australia has been in contact with Uruguay and other Southern Hemisphere nations to explore ways in which they might be able to assist."
The Southern Supporter has been chasing the Viarsa, believed to be a Uruguayan-flagged vessel, in the Southern Ocean for the past week.
Justice and Customs Minister, Senator Chris Ellison, said the two vessels are currently heading west, over 1000 nautical miles south west of Heard Island and McDonald Islands near where the Viarsa was first located inside the Australian Fishing Zone.
Senator Chris Ellison said the crew had reported that the weather in the area remained extremely poor with rough seas and intermittent ice and snow.
"Despite these severe conditions, the crew aboard the Southern Supporter are in good spirits and they are just as determined as the Australian Government to continue this chase," Senator Ellison said.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone, said a growing number of countries had indicated that they would close their ports to the Viarsa and prevent any possibility of catch being unloaded.
"This is a significant breakthrough. We are delighted that many of the countries which are members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) are supporting us in our efforts," Dr Stone said.
"CCAMLR, of which Australia is one of 24 member countries, is concerned with ensuring the conservation of marine resources and stamping out the illegal fishing of vulnerable species like the Patagonian toothfish."
For further information, please contact:
Senator Macdonald's Office: Philip Connole 02 6277 7270 or 0417 063 605
Senator Ellison's Office: Mairi Barton 02 6277 7260 or 0439 300 335
Dr Stone's Office: Amanda Kennedy 02 6277 2016 or 0423 577 045
Photos of the vessel which is being pursued by the Southern Supporter are available from the Media room.
File vision of an earlier Southern Ocean patrol involving the vessel Aurora Australis in April-May 2003, which provides an example of typical sea conditions, is available by calling Chris Schofield at Customs public relations on 0418 281 501.
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