Illegal fishing dominates 20th CCAMLR

A major agenda item for the 20th meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (Hobart, 22 October to 2 November 2001) was illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing for Patagonian toothfish. Several delegations reported sightings, arrests and prosecutions for IUU activities in the Southern Ocean. While difficult to estimate, IUU fishing in the CCAMLR area has increased significantly over the last year and remains at unacceptably high levels.

The meeting agreed to compulsory use of vessel monitoring systems to verify the area fished by a vessel, which if adopted should significantly reduce fraudulent reporting of Patagonian toothfish catch origins. This was a key goal for the Australian delegation.

The meeting also saw useful advancements in management of exploratory fisheries, including acknowledgment of the need for improved arrangements to minimise bycatch and commitment to further research. A program was endorsed to improve monitoring and assessment of fisheries' impact on Antarctic ecosystems.

All 24 CCAMLR members were represented, including Namibia at its first meeting since joining the commission. Other delegates represented Convention parties, states with an interest in Patagonian toothfish issues, intergovernmental organisations, regional fisheries management organisations and conservation organisations.

The Commission meets again in Hobart from 21 October to 1 November 2002.

Gill Slocum, Antarctic Treaty and Government, AAD

Illegal fishers brought to account

Two Russian-flagged fishing vessels have been taken into custody by Australian defence and fisheries officers following their apprehension in Australian waters off the Territory of Heard and McDonald Islands, about 4000 km from the Australian mainland. The vessels apprehended, Lena (apprehended on 6 February) and Volga (7 February) are suspected of fishing illegally for Patagonian toothfish inside Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone around the territory. The Lena had previously been sighted in the Heard Island region late last year.

The vessels were brought to Fremantle, where three Lena officers pleaded guilty to charges under the Fisheries Management Act 1991 related to using a foreign vessel equipped to fish inside the Australian fishing zone. No pleas had been made at time of writing by officers from the Volga.

The apprehension of the Lena and the Volga are part of a much broader campaign by Australia and other members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to stamp out illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which undermines international efforts to manage the toothfish resource sustainably.