Former Ministers media release
Viarsa is boarded - Thursday, 28th 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
Australian Customs and Fisheries officers from the Southern Supporter, supported by armed South African enforcement officers, boarded the alleged illegal fishing vessel Viarsa at 1.50 am AEST (3.50 pm local time) today (Thursday, Australian time).
Federal Fisheries Minister, Senator Ian Macdonald, and Justice and Customs Minister, Senator Chris Ellison, said that the South African ocean-going tug John Ross and the United Kingdom fisheries patrol vessel Dorada provided support at the scene, over 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km) from Cape Town in the South Atlantic.
Justice and Customs Minister, Senator Chris Ellison, praised the superb efforts of the Australian Customs and Fisheries officers and the crew of the Southern Supporter who have undertaken a 21 day, 3,900 nautical mile chase - the longest in Australia's maritime history - through some of the most inhospitable sea and weather conditions.
Federal Fisheries Minister, Senator Ian Macdonald, said that this chase is a warning to the pirates and poachers who invade Australia's waters to fish illegally, possibly destroying a fragile marine ecosystem and threatening the sustainability of valuable fish stocks, that Australia will pursue them to the end of the earth to stamp out this illegal activity.
"I am pleased to advise that the boarding occurred with no injuries being sustained to the boarding party or the crew of the Viarsa," Senator Ellison said.
"The boarding followed cooperation and dialogue between Australian and Uruguayan officials since the Viarsa was sighted allegedly operating illegally inside the Australian Fishing Zone around Heard Island and McDonald Islands on 7 August 2003, at which time the Southern Supporter initiated the 21 day hot pursuit. We will continue to keep the Uruguayan Government fully informed and look forward to working with Uruguay as the investigations proceed," Senator Macdonald said.
"The Southern Supporter and the Viarsa will now steam towards Australia and may have their supplies replenished and change crews on the journey," Senator Ellison said.
"The journey to Fremantle will probably take until late September."
"I wish to thank South Africa and the United Kingdom for their assistance to the Australian Government in this pursuit. In the last week I have approached my South African and British Ministerial colleagues seeking their Government's assistance. It is pleasing to see that there exists a high level of international cooperation to combat the illegal toothfish trade," Senator Macdonald said.
This chase, and the eventual boarding and apprehension, focuses world attention on the need for stronger measures to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Australia will renew its efforts in international fora to have a more stringent legal regime and improved international cooperation to stamp out IUU fishing," Senator Macdonald said.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone, said that Australia will be urging the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) member nations to adopt stricter measures at their forthcoming meeting in Hobart to combat IUU fishing.
"I am delighted with the strong offers of support that Australia has received from most of our CCAMLR partners over the past 21 days," Dr Stone said.
For further information, please contact:
Senator Macdonald's Office: Philip Connole 02 6277 7270 or 0417 063 605
Senator Ellison's Office: Michael Barrett 02 6277 7260 or 0419 424 359
Dr Stone's Office: Amanda Kennedy 02 6277 2016 or 0423 577 045
Updates and new images are available from the Customs website in the media room.
Join the Media releases mailing list.