The Australian Government has scored a win in the fight against illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean at the annual Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) which ended in Hobart at the weekend.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said that Australian measures to prevent illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing in the CCAMLR region were adopted by the Commission.

“Member and Party nations agreed to a binding Conservation Measure placing an interim prohibition on deep-sea gill-netting in the CCAMLR Convention Area, stronger port controls and improvements to the Patagonian toothfish Catch Documentation Scheme,” Senator Campbell said.

“We need these measures if we are to make significant headway in the fight against illegal fishing.

“It is becoming apparent that some fishing vessels operating illegally in CCAMLR and adjacent waters are not only taking Patagonian toothfish but are also targeting sharks.

“This is a particularly worrying trend as it appears that demersal gillnets are beginning to be used. These nets are pulled along or close to the ocean floor and are not selective about what they catch.

“The Australian Government is opposed to needlessly destructive fishing techniques and the use of these kinds of gill-nets in the CCAMLR region is extremely hazardous to the delicate ecosystem.”

Senator Campbell said that the Commission also agreed to stronger cooperation with nations that are not members of CCAMLR to ensure that fish pirates cannot unload their illegal catches, such as Patagonian toothfish.

“It is clear that CCAMLR member countries alone cannot combat the activities of all illegal fishers,” Senator Campbell said.

“In order to make significance progress against illegal fishing we must encourage other countries to monitor vessels and control catches to ensure they are not used as ports of convenience to unload illegally-caught fish.

“By limiting the number of nations that turn their backs to illegal fishing we will be able to identify offending parties and take action against them.

Senator Campbell said the Australian Government had a responsibility as a world leader in Antarctic science to ensure the protection of the continent and the surrounding ocean for the benefit of future generations.