The Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell has welcomed a United States court decision finding Antonio Vidal Pego, a Spanish national, and Fadilur S.A., a Uruguayan company, guilty on charges of attempting to illegally import and sell Patagonian toothfish.

“This result comes after an international hunt that involved law enforcement officers of several countries, including Australia, to bring to justice the main players involved in the insidious illegal toothfish trade,” said Minister Campbell.

Minister Campbell welcomed the tough penalties handed down by the court and said that this sets a precedent in the global fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

“By handing down a guilty verdict a Florida Court has sent the clear message that the international community will not tolerate the pillaging of our oceans and will take strong action to prevent illegal fishing.”

“Illegal fishing is a serious threat to the conservation of the Southern Ocean ecosystem; it degrades fish stocks and long lines take an enormous death toll on albatross and other endangered seabirds,” Minister Campbell said.

In May 2004, Antonio Vidal Pego and Fadilur, S.A. attempted to import approximately 25 tonnes of toothfish from Singapore into Miami, for sale in the United States. The fish were taken and transported in violation of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

Antonio Vidal Pego was placed on probation for four years, and is required to cease all involvement in the toothfish industry, direct or indirect. Additionally, a fine of $400,000 was also imposed against Vidal by the Court.

The Uruguayan company, Fadilur, S.A., was also placed on probation for a period of four years. Additionally, the company was fined $100,000, and is required to cease all corporate activities and dissolve as a business entity within 45 days of the judgement being handed down.