Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing will not be tolerated in Australian waters, as demonstrated by the recent conviction of 26 Vietnamese foreign fishermen who were found illegally fishing in Australian waters last month.
The crew and masters of the vessels received suspended jail sentences ranging between two to six months for each offence and good behaviour bonds of between two to three years.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, said the sentencing sends a strong message to those seeking to do the wrong thing and plunder Australian resources.
“These sentences demonstrate the Australian Government’s commitment to prosecuting those who seek to exploit Australia’s maritime resources,” Minister Dutton said.
The Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, agreed that these cases showed that Australia takes illegal fishing very seriously.
“Congratulations on the work of our maritime enforcement agencies who have taken action against these boats threatening the sustainability and economic viability of our marine resources,” Minister Ruston said.
The fishermen pled guilty and were sentenced in the Darwin Magistrates Court after being caught illegally fishing in waters off North Queensland on 21 June 2016.
The Australian Border Force made the apprehensions in cooperation with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, the Australian Defence Force and Parks Australia after the vessels were boarded near Diane Bank more than 400 kilometres off north Queensland.
During the inspection, officers found diving gear to support multiple teams of divers, approximately 8.7 tonnes of bêche-de-mer and a quantity of turtle meat, coral and reef fish.
This latest conviction follows the recent conviction of thirty Vietnamese foreign fishermen in June for illegally fishing in the Coral Sea. Masters and crew received suspended sentences and good behaviour bonds and their boats were destroyed.
More information on how Australia is working to combat illegal fishing can be found at afma.gov.au.