Hot pursuit of fishing vessel continues (2003)

Hot pursuit of fishing vessel continues as Australia renews call for Uruguay to cooperate – Wednesday 13 August 2003

Senator The Hon Ian Macdonald
Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation

Senator The Hon Chris Ellison
Minister for Justice and Customs

Dr Sharman Stone MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment

The Australian Government continues to urge Uruguay to order a vessel, believed to be Uruguayan-flagged and suspected of fishing illegally in Australia’s sub-Antarctic waters, to obey the instructions of the Australian vessel in hot pursuit and head to Fremantle.

Senator Macdonald said Australia had again asked Uruguay to exercise its flag state responsibilities and require the Viarsa to accompany the Australian Customs and Fisheries patrol vessel Southern Supporter to a port where further investigations could be undertaken.

“Uruguay had initially cooperated with the Australian Government but has now advised that it would only request that the Viarsa return to port in Uruguay,” Senator Macdonald said.

“This is unsatisfactory.  This vessel was detected well inside the Australian Fishing Zone adjacent to Heard Island and McDonald Islands on 7 August.

“Australian authorities need to be able to inspect the vessel in a suitable port as part of our investigations into suspected serious breaches of the Fisheries Management Act 1991.

“I have contacted the Uruguayan Minister for Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries seeking his urgent assistance in this matter,” he said.

Senator Ellison said that the weather is poor and seas are extremely rough but to their credit, the Australian crew, and Customs and Fisheries officers on board Southern Supporter, are maintaining this hot pursuit.

“The Southern Supporter’s pursuit of the Viarsa is now in its sixth day and would continue.  Both vessels are headed west in the Southern Ocean and are now located over 700 nautical miles south-west of Heard Island and McDonald Islands,” Senator Ellison said.

“Australia has previously raised concerns about Uruguayan-flagged fishing boats operating within the sub-Antarctic waters managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) of which both Australia and Uruguay are members,” he said.

“Last year, French authorities apprehended a vessel for illegal fishing in its sub-Antarctic waters that had previously been flagged to Uruguay.  In early 2002, an Australian boat also sighted an Uruguayan flagged vessel suspected of illegally fishing in CCAMLR waters,“ he said.

Dr Sharman Stone said the CCAMLR Secretariat had acted on information provided by Australia and alerted all member countries to the pursuit.

“I understand there has already been a very positive reaction from member countries with many offering their support and assistance to Australia,” Dr Stone said.

“As a CCAMLR member and under the Law of the Sea Convention and as the flag-State, Uruguay has clear responsibilities to cooperate with other countries to ensure the conservation of marine resources, and stamp out illegal fishing of vulnerable species like Patagonian toothfish,” she said.

For further information, please contact:

Senator Macdonald’s Office:
Philip Connole                      02 6277 7270 or 0417 063 605

Senator Ellison’s Office:
Mairi Barton                         02 6277 7260 or 0439 300 335

Dr Stone’s Office:
Amanda Kennedy                 02 6277 2016 or 0423 577 045

Photos of the vessel which is being pursued by the Southern Supporter are available from the Customs website at

AFFA 03/151M

13 August 2003