Water Week

EWN Publishing

New fisheries bill adds more surveillance, jail penalties, boat forfeiture to combat illegal fishing in Aus waters

Posted by waterweek on 22 September 2007

The Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill 2007 would provide additional deterrence to illegal fishing in Australian waters, according to Sussan Ley (Federal Liberal member for Farrer, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, in House of Representatives, Votes and Proceedings, hansard, Wednesday, 23 May 2007.

Monitoring role: The bill will improve the management of the Torres Strait fisheries, better enable monitoring of fishing activity in Commonwealth fisheries and deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Australian waters. The bill also contains amendments to implement government policies to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone, AFZ. The Australian Government devotes significant resources to address the risks posed by illegal foreign fishing vessels and has announced a range of additional measures in recent years, including custodial penalties to further deter illegal incursions.

Custodial penalties: The Fisheries Management Act and the Torres Strait Fisheries Act were amended in 2006 to provide for custodial penalties ranging up to a maximum of three years for foreign fishing offences in the territorial sea of Australia. These offences reflect the inherent sovereignty violation with such incursions. Further amendments are required to deal with evidentiary problems in securing custodial convictions. For example, it is difficult proving the fishers were aware they were fishing in Australia’s territorial sea. The bill addresses this problem by applying strict liability to this aspect of these offences, while leaving the overall offence a fault-based one.

Overall policy response: The bill also makes complementary amendments to the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 to ensure that the new custodial penalty offences can be effectively investigated and prosecuted using surveillance devices. By overcoming the current impediments to prosecuting the new offences, the bill will strengthen the government’s overall policy response to illegal foreign fishing. The bill will also strengthen forfeiture provisions, allowing for the forfeiture of the boat, catch and all equipment on a foreign fishing boat that has engaged in illegal fishing in the AFZ at the time of its seizure.

Losing the boat: These amendments are intended to further deter foreign fishers from illegally fishing in the AFZ. Knowledge by illegal foreign fishers that they may be given custodial sentences, and lose the boat, catch and all equipment any time after the offence occurs also makes it more likely that the owner will exercise vigilance to prevent the vessel being used to illegally fish in the AFZ.

Reference: House of Representatives, Votes and Proceedings, hansard, Wednesday, 23 May 2007, facsimile: Senate (02) 6277 2977, House of Representatives (02) 6277 2944, main Committee (02) 6277 8368

Erisk Net, 29/5/2007


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