exclusive

ABF heads to Indonesian ports to send fiery warning about illegally fishing in Australian territorial waters

Headshot of Katina Curtis
Katina Curtis
The Nightly
Australian Border Force patrols have set fire to dozens of illegal Indonesian fishing boats in recent weeks as they defend the biggest assault on our territorial waters in almost two decades. 
Australian Border Force patrols have set fire to dozens of illegal Indonesian fishing boats in recent weeks as they defend the biggest assault on our territorial waters in almost two decades.  Credit: 7NEWS/Supplied

Australian authorities are headed to Indonesian ports to warn fishing crews they risk having their boats destroyed and face jail time and hefty fines if they fish illegally in our territorial waters.

Already 57 people have been prosecuted for illegal fishing since July, with $107,000 in fines issued and eight people sent to jail.

Authorities have also burnt or sunk almost half the 33 boats seized since the monsoon season ended in March.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

Australian Fisheries Management Authority head Wez Norris said the strong crackdown meant people would deem it too risky to come into Australian waters to fish for the lucrative sea cucumbers and shark fin markets – and that’s the message his officers will be hammering home on the ground in Indonesia.

“If people think that they can get a reward with relatively low risk, then they’ll make the trip,” he told The West Australian.

“Just with the figures that have been achieved since the monsoon finish, I’m confident that we are going to see a reduction… Those are really significant numbers for us to promote that message with credibility that if you come down, you will get caught, you will lose your boat.”

On top of losing the boat that could be the basis of their livelihood, they also risk losing income while they spend months in an Australian jail or facing fines that are hefty compared to their incomes.

The multi-agency operation involving Border Force, Maritime Border Command, the Australian Defence Force and Australian Fisheries Management Authority ramped up aerial, land and sea surveillance to track down illegal fishing boats and deter them, The West revealed in December.

This came after a threefold jump in the number of illegal fishing boats being intercepted over WA’s coast in the second half of last year.

The operation has now scooped up more than 200 boats and apprehended almost 1000 fishermen and women, as Seven News and The Nightly reported on Thursday.

Operations across the northern waters of WA and Queensland have seized 18,614kg of illegally fished sea cucumber over the past six months, along with about 1000 shark fins and 5750kg of other fish.

Throughout March 2024, Australian authorities intercepted and apprehended three Indonesian fishing vessels fishing illegally in Australian waters, 

two of which were intercepted in the Kimberley Marine Park.
Throughout March 2024, Australian authorities intercepted and apprehended three Indonesian fishing vessels fishing illegally in Australian waters,  two of which were intercepted in the Kimberley Marine Park. Credit: Supplied/RegionalHUB

Mr Norris said illegal fishing increased in the wake of COVID when tourism shut down across Indonesia, forcing many people back to their hometowns and searching for new ways to make a living, and Australian authorities were limited in their ability to take strong enforcement action because of health protocols.

This was coupled with fantastic prices for sea cucumber and shark fins, especially in China and Hong Kong.

“Where you’ve got this situation of very low incomes at home and the potential to make quite large windfalls, you can see the incentive there. And that’s where again, we’ve got to add the risk element to people’s considerations,” he said.

Australia is also working to target the key players in the supply chain and disrupt their businesses – a tactic that worked effectively to crack down on illegal fishing of the Patagonian toothfish from Antarctica in the early 2000s.

Comments

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 23-07-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 23 July 202423 July 2024

Australia’s top cyber cop lashes big tech firms for profiting from alarming scourge amid calls for further action on online image abuse.