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Australia Intercepts Four Illegal Fishing Vessels

Time: 2013-10-28

AUSTRALIA - HMAS Wollongong, together with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS), has apprehended four Indonesian boats suspected of illegal fishing in Australian waters.

The vessels were spotted by a Customs and Border Protection Dash 8 aircraft on Friday, 11 October and were intercepted a short time later by HMAS Wollongong.

A quantity of fresh reef fish were found on board the vessels.

Deputy Commander of the Joint Task Force 639, Air Commodore Ken Watson, said the apprehensions were the direct result of the commitment and professionalism of Navy members embarked in HMAS Wollongong, working efficiently with their ACBPS and AFMA counterparts.

"HMAS Wollongong arrived on scene a very short time after the vessels" initial detection by a Customs and Border Protection Dash 8 aircraft," Air Commodore Watson said.

"Using the expertise of an AFMA officer on board HMAS Wollongong, Navy personnel were swiftly authorised to apprehend the vessels and bring the crew back to Darwin for further investigations."

Commander Border Protection Command, Rear Admiral David Johnston, said: "Regular patrols of Australia"s maritime borders have seen the number of illegal foreign fishing vessel apprehensions decline significantly over the years, which shows that our strong lines of defence are working."

AFMA acting General Manager Operations, John Andersen, said that illegal foreign fishing undermines Australian sovereignty and threatens the sustainability of Australian fish stocks for future generations.

"AFMA takes illegal foreign fishing seriously and we work closely with other governments in the region and run education programs in Indonesia to reduce this threat. Our partnerships with Customs and Border Protection and the Australian Defence Force ensure that we can catch and prosecute illegal fishers when they enter Australian waters," Mr Andersen said.

Twenty crew have been detained and the vessels have been towed to Darwin for further investigation by AFMA.