WWF-SA Press Release (2003)

For Release: Immediate

WWF-SA lauds South Africa’s role in the seizure of the Viarsa

WWF South Africa lauds the action taken by the South African government in assisting in the seizure of the illegal toothfish vessel the Viarsa, and the arrest of her Captain and Crew. Although the Viarsa was originally sighted fishing illegally around Australia’s Heard Island,
South Africa faces a very similar predicament in the management of its marine resources around the Prince Edward Islands. It is estimated that South Africa has lost over R3 billion in potential income due to Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing for Patagonian
toothfish around it’s Prince Edward Islands since end 1996. The Patagonian toothfish is now considered to be on the brink of commercial extinction in this area. The reason for the poor control of illegal fishing is mainly due to the remote location of the fishing grounds, and the consequent expense and logistical difficulties associated with surveillance and enforcement. WWF South Africa is greatly encouraged by the co-operation shown between the governments of South Africa and Australia in the arrest of the Viarsa.

“We believe that this sort of co-operation between countries, in patrolling and apprehending offending fishing vessels, is vital to stamping out the illegal pillage of our marine resources in the Southern Ocean”, says Deon Nel of WWF South Africa. “We are further encouraged by the bilateral discussions that are currently underway between the South African and Australian governments, aimed towards greater co-operation and joint responsiblities in patrolling and protection of the marine resources in their respective territories and Economic Exclusive Zones (EEZs) in the Southern Ocean. We are definitely heading in the right direction and we encourage the governments of South Africa and Australia to move as expeditously as possible towards concluding this bilateral agreement. The events of the past few days have illustrated the value of such co-operation”.

For further information please contact:
Dr. Deon Nel
Marine Programme Manager
WWF South Africa

Email: dnel@wwfsa.org.za
Tel: 888 2835
Mobile: 072 485 4570

28 August 2003