High Farce on the High Seas (2003)

High Farce on the High Seas – Wednesday 27 August 2003

Kerry O’Brien
Labor Senator for Tasmania
Shadow Minister for Primary Industries

The conclusion to Australia’s pursuit of a suspected illegal fishing vessel 1800 nautical miles west-south-west of Cape Town exposes Australia’s inadequate defence of our sub-Antarctic fisheries.

The impending apprehension of the Viarsa by a flotilla including an Australian patrol vessel, a South African salvage tug, a South African ice-breaker and a UK fishing vessel is an indictment of Australia’s commitment to protecting the environmental and economic sustainability of our fisheries resources.

The farcical twenty day chase of the Viarsa by the unarmed Australian civil patrol vessel Southern Supportertelegraphs to the world Australia’s incapacity to apprehend suspected illegal fishing vessels in Australian waters.

Australia is instead forced to rely on the armed assistance of other nations to combat illegal activity in Australian waters.

Rather than put Australian lives at unnecessary risk during high-profile pursuits through treacherous seas, Australia should get serious about combating illegal fishing in the Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) region.

Labor applauds the commitment of Australian officers involved in the pursuit of the Viarsa but condemns the Howard Government for failing to defend Australia’s sovereignty in Australian waters.

For comment:     Kerry O’Brien      0419 007 780
Jack Lake            02 6277 3843 or 0438 773 842