A haul of trochus shell (sea snail) was among the catch found when eight suspected Indonesian illegal fishermen were apprehended in Australian waters near Browse Island in the Timor Sea on 27 April.
Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency task force with the Australian Border Force (ABF), worked in conjunction with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to locate and apprehend the vessel.
An MBC surveillance aircraft detected the vessel about 280 nautical miles north-north-east of Broome, Western Australia. ABF Cutter Cape St George intercepted the vessel early on 27 April.
The vessel was unseaworthy and could not be towed safely to shore. As a result, HMAS Bathurst assisted Cape St George with the apprehension and destruction of the vessel at sea. The crew were transferred to HMAS Bathurst, who brought them to Darwin to face further investigation from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) for breaches of the Australian Fisheries Management Act 1991.
Inspector Ray Graham, Commanding Officer ABF Cutter Cape St George, noted the professionalism of the crew involved in the operation.
“We have extremely dedicated, determined and professional crews in our ships and aircraft,” Inspector Graham said. “We are effectively patrolling these waters and have been very successful in apprehending Indonesian fishing vessels attempting to exploit our natural resources. Protecting the rich biodiversity of Australian waters is a high priority for the Australian Border Force.”
Commander MBC, Rear Admiral Peter Laver, said the multi-agency task force is always on the lookout for illegal foreign fishing vessels.
“Our response is world class, from our personnel to our water and air-based assets and cutting-edge technologies,” Rear Admiral Laver said. “We are constantly patrolling Australia’s waters, and are alert and responsive to all threats to the maritime environment.
“Our message is that if you come here to illegally fish in our waters, we will catch you, we will prosecute you, and you could lose your boat and your livelihood.”
AFMA’s General Manager Operations Peter Venslovas said this apprehension was another great example of the cooperative efforts of Australian authorities to protect Australian fish resources. This is the first time in a decade there has been a seizure of trochus shell from a foreign fishing vessel in Australian waters.
“Since 1 July 2016, AFMA, working in cooperation with ABF and MBC, have apprehended 15 foreign vessels for illegally fishing in Australian waters,” Mr Venslovas said.
“Let this be a message for those who seek to take advantage of Australia’s premium fisheries; if you commit the crime you will be caught.”
The group is in immigration detention pending the finalisation of legal matters. They will then be removed from Australia.
Immigration and Border Protection: (02) 6264 2244
AFMA: 0437 869 860