THE federal government today blasted the international community for turning a blind eye to illegal fishing of the valuable Patagonian toothfish in sub-Antarctic waters.
The long running issue of toothfish poaching, particularly in Australia’s territory surrounding Heard and Macdonald islands, surfaced again today with the revelation six flag-of-convenience ships are fishing undeterred in the waters.
Federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison and Fisheries Minister Ian Macdonald have revealed the Southern Oceans patrol vessel Oceanic Viking is mid-patrol between Australia’s exclusive economic zone and the edge of the Antarctic ice shelf.
“Four of the six vessels were fishing on the Banzare Bank which has been closed to fishing by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) Commission since February 14,” Senator Macdonald said.
The vessels were approached by the Oceanic Viking and were instructed to leave CCAMLR waters but because the flag states of these vessels are not members of the commission, international law does not allow any additional action to be taken.
“Evidence of the vessels’ fishing was gathered and will be passed to the CCAMLR Commission and responsible fishing nations.”
The six vessels are the Togo-flagged Hammer, the Ross and the Condor and the Georgian-flagged Kang Yuan, Jian Wuan and Koko.
Senator Macdonald said the inability to take action against the vessels demonstrated the absurdity of international laws.
“I am highly critical of the international community for not addressing the problem which has been clearly exposed again this week by the work of the Australian patrol vessel,” he said.
Responsible fishing companies have ceased operations in the area in accordance with the CCAMLR rules.
“However, fishing vessels flagged to non-CCAMLR nations have continued to fish with impunity. The absolute stupidity of the situation is that in these flag states the administrative and government arrangements are loose and inadequate and very often corrupt.”
Senator Macdonald said he had made representations to the government of Togo, but to no avail.