Vietnamese fishing vessels caught in Australian waters

Royal Australian Navy patrol boat HMAS Wollongong recently intercepted what the navy believes are two Vietnamese fishing vessels.

Two foreign fishing vessels were apprehended on June 2, in waters off north Queensland for suspected illegal fishing in Australian waters.

Maritime Border Command within the Australian Border Force, made the apprehensions off Lihou reef in the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve, in cooperation with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and Parks Australia.

The vessels were first spotted by a surveillance aircraft near the reef which is located in the Coral Sea more than 600km to the northeast of Cairns.

Wollongong with Border Force and Fisheries officers embarked, responded and inspected the vessels and during the inspection officers found diving gear to support more than 10 divers in the water at once and approximately six tonnes of bêche-de-mer (sea cucumber) suspected to have been caught illegally.

Thirty crew members believed to be Vietnamese nationals have now been detained and the vessels and crew were escorted to Cairns where further investigations will be undertaken by the Fisheries Management Authority.

General Manager Fisheries Operations, Peter Venslovas, said this attempt to steal from Australian waters demonstrates that the risk of illegal foreign fishing remains.

“Australia’s fisheries are some of the best managed in the world and as such they are the target of illegal fishers,” Mr Venslovas said.

The apprehensions follow the convictions in May of four Indonesian fishers for illegally fishing for shark fin in Australia’s northern waters. They were fined a total of $19,200 and their fishing boat was confiscated and destroyed.