Fifteen illegal Vietnamese fishermen are facing the harsh reality of illegal fishing in Australian waters after appearing at Darwin Magistrates Court last week, with several crew sentenced to jail terms.
The fifteen crew were all sentenced to two-month suspended sentences for illegally fishing from a vessel apprehended on 6th February 2017, near Lihou Reef in the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve, off Cairns. The skipper was given a suspended sentence of six months. In addition, seven of the crew were found to be repeat offenders and received two months imprisonment for breach of their good behaviour bonds.
The vessel used by the fishermen was confiscated and destroyed.
A joint effort by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), the Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency task force within the Australian Border Force (ABF), and Parks Australia resulted in the apprehension and subsequent court case.
Following investigations by AFMA and Parks Australia, they were found guilty for committing offences against the Australian Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
‘Those who seek to illegally fish in Australian waters will be caught,’ said general manager fisheries operations Peter Venslovas, commenting that the consequences faced by these illegal fishermen reinforces Australia’s stance on deterring and preventing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities.
‘As demonstrated by this court case, those seeking to take advantage of Australia’s well-managed fisheries will face the harsh consequences, including of jail time’‘ he added.
‘ABF and Australian Defence Force surveillance aircraft and mariners constantly monitor our Exclusive Economic Zone to the north-east of Australia, sometimes several hundred nautical miles from the coastline,’ said MBC acting Commander Stephen Alexander.
‘We have recently stepped up our detection and response efforts in collaboration with other maritime law enforcement agencies in our region including France and Papua New Guinea to ensure we will detect and intercept illegal fishers so as to ultimately protect our resources and pristine ecology and ensure compliance to our laws.’