Ministerial Media Release (2003)

Viarsa crew members charged – Friday 10 October 2003

Senator the Hon. Ian Macdonald
Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation

The Australian Government says the charging of five crewmembers of the suspected illegal fishing vessel Viarsa 1 by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) was a sign of Australia’s determination to combat the problem of illegal fishing.

Fisheries Minister Senator Ian Macdonald said five foreign nationals had been charged with illegal fishing.

The men, the 58-year-old Uruguayan skipper, three Spanish nationals aged between 38 and 40, and a 34-year-old man from Chile, have had their bail conditions set at $20,000 for each man, after a brief appearance in the Perth Magistrates Court this afternoon.

All have been charged with offences under sections 100 and 101 of Australia’s Fisheries Management Act 1991, and will reappear in the Perth Magistrates Court on October 31.

“While these offences remain allegations ahead of any court verdict, I congratulate AFMA on its investigation of these matters to date,” Senator Macdonald said.

Senator Macdonald said he was pleased to see charges laid, following the chase of the Viarsa1 by Australian authorities for 21 days after it was suspected of illegally fishing in Australian waters.

Australian authorities will allege the crew on board the Viarsa 1 had fished for the highly valuable Patagonian toothfish within Australia’s exclusive economic zone around Heard Island and McDonald Islands.

The vessel’s catch was offloaded earlier this week and is still being weighed.

Upon completion of this, the catch will be sold by tender, with the monies held in trust until the conclusion of legal proceedings.

For further information contact Senator Macdonald’s Office:
David Crisafulli +61 7 4771 3066 or 0400 144 483