Combating illegal fishing on agenda for international Antarctic meeting

18 October 2002

Moves to crack down on illegal fishing in Antarctic waters will be on the agenda when representatives of more than 20 nations meet in Hobart next week.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the body responsible for the conservation of marine resources in the Southern Ocean, will meet from October 21 to November 1 at the Wrest Point Hotel.

Top of the agenda for the meeting will be the formulation of initiatives to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, particularly for high value toothfish species, in the Convention Area, which includes Australia's Heard Island and McDonald Islands Exclusive Economic Zone.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic Dr Sharman Stone said the Australian Government was concerned that the incidence of illegal fishing in CCAMLR waters was increasing, despite international efforts to combat it.

"The Australian Government is strongly committed to eliminating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and has spent millions of dollars on increased fisheries surveillance and enforcement,'' Dr Stone said.

The Australian delegation for the CCAMLR meeting will be headed by Dr Tony Press, Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, and comprises people from Commonwealth departments and representatives from state and territory Governments, conservation groups and the fishing industry, who will provide scientific and policy advice.

The Australian delegation will present a series of specific initiatives to the Commission to combat IUU fishing in the convention area, including:

  • extending CCAMLR's competency to manage the harvesting of toothfish stocks on the high seas outside the Convention Area;
  • establishing a centralised vessel monitoring system to be based at the CCAMLR Secretariat in Hobart; and
  • strengthening the CCAMLR catch documentation scheme for toothfish.

Dr Stone warned that illegal fishing was rapidly depleting fish stocks as well as killing thousands of seabirds, including albatross species, through their activities. Australia would take an international lead in responding to the threat with initiatives presented at the CCAMLR meeting.

CCAMLR meets annually in Hobart.