Illegal Fishers In Hot Water After Their Day In Court

Eighteen (18) illegal fishers are in hot water after pleading guilty to fisheries offences at the Darwin Local Court on Tuesday, 14 May 2024.

In separate incidents throughout April 2024, Australian authorities located, intercepted and apprehended two Indonesian vessels fishing illegally in Australian waters. One of the vessels initially attempted to evade authorities, with the other located hiding within mangroves in the Kimberley Marine Park.

Australian authorities seized a combined catch of 750 kilograms of shark fin, three stingray tails and 10 kilograms of sea cucumber (trepang). A range of equipment was also seized including reef walking shoes, a large quantity of fishing line, nets and 220 kilograms of salt (used for preserving catch). The vessels were seized and lawfully disposed of, whilst the crew from each vessel was detained and transported to Darwin.

Eighteen fishers were charged with various offences against the Fisheries Management Act 1991 (Cth). All accused fishers pleaded guilty at Darwin Local Court with findings of guilt recorded in each case. The court noted the seriousness of the offending, with penalties ranging from imprisonment, individual fines of up to $5000AUD and Recognizance Release Orders for first time offenders.

The individuals identified as Master of each vessel received 3-month and 2-month terms of imprisonment respectively. The 3-month sentence related to a charge of failing to facilitate boarding by an officer, arising from the vessel’s attempts to evade interception by authorities. Additionally, three of the fishers were required to serve periods of imprisonment following execution of outstanding warrants arising from previous similar offending.

AFMA in partnership with Maritime Border Command, a multi-agency task force that includes the Australian Border Force (ABF) and Australian Defence Force (ADF), continue to target illegal foreign fishing in Australian waters to protect our precious marine resources.

Australian authorities are also using other measures to combat illegal fishing issue at its source, including the delivery of public information campaigns in Indonesian fishing communities, distribution of educational material, targeted social media campaigns, and proactive engagement with fishers.

Quotes attributable to AFMA’s General Manager, Fisheries Operations, Mr Justin Bathurst:

“Australia’s healthy fisheries continue to be a target for illegal fishing operators. AFMA, along with our partner agencies, remains committed to catching and prosecuting illegal operators.”

“These court outcomes demonstrate the seriousness of illegal fishing and the risks these individuals are taking.”

Quotes attributable to Commander Maritime Border Command, Rear Admiral Brett Sonter:

“The Australian Border Force, through Maritime Border Command, remains committed to protecting our maritime borders from any security threats, including irregular foreign fishing.

“The detection, interception, and prosecution of these illegal fishers serves notice to any crews operating illegally in Australian waters:

“Don’t attempt to ply your trade here. We will intercept you, you will lose your equipment and your vessel.”

/Public Release. View in full here.