Australia sent another clear message to illegal fishing operators around the world after the apprehension on 23 January 2004 of the Uruguayan-flagged fishing vessel Maya V. The Maya V is suspected of illegal fishing in Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone around Heard Island and McDonald Islands.
The Royal Australian Navy warship, HMAS Warramunga, made contact with Maya V on 22 January. However, the boarding party was unable to board until the following day due to bad weather conditions.
Maya V, under escort from the HMAS Warramunga, reached the port of Fremantle on 1 February, where Fisheries officers conducted a full investigation into the allegations of illegal fishing.
If the Maya V is successfully prosecuted under the Australian Fisheries Management Act, it may meet the same fate as the Lena, a Russian-flagged vessel scuttled off the coast of Bunbury, Western Australia in December 2003. The Lena, now a popular dive wreck, rests around five kilometres off shore, about 18 metres below the surface.
Australia will continue its tough approach against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The arrest of the Maya V, the sinking of the Lena and the recent announcement of armed patrol vessels around Heard Island and McDonald Islands showed that the Australian Government will not hesitate in pursuing illegal vessels fishing in Australian waters.
Antarctic and International Policy Section, AAD