Southern Ocean fishing pirates have been put on notice.

An Australian initiative to closely monitor the activities of fishing vessels in the Southern Ocean has been adopted by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) which ended in Hobart today.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, and the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald, said the decision was a major breakthrough in the fight against illegal fishing.

Under the agreement, member countries will have their vessels monitored by a satellite-based centralised system at the CCAMLR headquarters in Hobart.

“Australia developed the monitoring system proposal with New Zealand and the United States and we have worked hard at this year’s meeting to gain the consensus needed for it to be adopted,” Senator Campbell said.

“Today’s decision is a major breakthrough.”

Senator MacDonald said: “The adoption of a cVMS is a great step forward in the fight against unscrupulous pirates who continue to plunder the Southern Ocean for the highly-prized Patagonian toothfish.

“I am particularly appreciative of the work of the International Fisheries Division of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Australian Antarctic Division put in to obtain this outcome.”

“I also want to thank the Australian diplomatic service for the enormous amount they have put in over the past 12 months in promoting these initiatives to CCMALR members.”

The monitoring system was successfully trialed earlier this year involving Australian vessels fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean.

The cVMS was one of a number of measures agreed to by the 24 CCAMLR member nations. Members also agreed to improvements to the system for placing vessels on CCAMLR’s Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing vessel list, which will now include vessels that support IUU fishing.

Agreement was also reached to provide detailed information about vessels seeking a licence, to make sure that those involved in illegal fishing are not able to slip through the net. Information on IUU vessels and licensed vessels will now be available to the public on the CCAMLR website.

“These major advances in the fight against illegal fishers send a clear message that CCAMLR is no longer tolerant of fishing vessels that flaunt the rules” Senator Campbell said.