Operation LEEDSTRUM: Prosecutions continue in Darwin for illegal fishers

Operation LEEDSTRUM continues to combat illegal fishing in Western Australian waters.

During December 2023 and January 2024, Maritime Border Command, in partnership with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), intercepted three Indonesian fishing vessels operating illegally within the Kimberley Marine Park in separate events.

Australian authorities seized fishing equipment along with a combined catch comprising 990 kilograms of sea cucumber (trepang), 650 kilograms of salt (used for preserving catch), 200 kilograms of assorted fin fish and 30 kilograms of shark meat. The three fishing vessels were seized and lawfully disposed of.

Ten crew were detained, transported to Darwin and charged with offences against the Fisheries Management Act 1991 (Cth). Nine accused fishers pleaded guilty at Darwin Local Court on 23 and 25 January 2024 with findings of guilt recorded in each case. The penalties imposed included 12 and 24-month good behaviour bonds along with a fine of AUD $1,000. The final matter concluded on 6 February 2024 with that fisher pleading guilty to two charges, including fishing in the Australian Territorial Sea, which carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment. The fisher was convicted and sentenced to a two-month period of imprisonment.

Operation LEEDSTRUM is an Australian Border Force led, whole-of-Government campaign to combat illegal foreign fishing in and around the Kimberley Marine Park. This is being achieved through increased enforcement activity including seizure of catch, fishing gear and fishing vessels. Crews from illegal fishing vessels are being detained and, where appropriate, prosecuted for offences against Australian law.

Australian authorities also use non-enforcement measures to counter the threat off illegal fishing, including delivery of public information campaigns in fishing communities, distribution of educational material, targeted social media campaigns, and proactive engagement with fishers.

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