Australia destroys two Vietnamese vessels, convicts 30 in IUU bust
Two Vietnamese fishing vessels have been destroyed and their captains and crew have been given jail time after they were found to be illegally harvesting sea cucumber in Australia’s Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve sanctuary zone in May and June.
Surveillance aircraft from the Australia Border Force originally spotted the vessels on 31 May in the marine reserve near Lihou Reef, approximately 600 kilometers east of Ciarns, Queensland. The ABF’s Maritime Border Command apprehended the vessels in cooperation with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, the Australian Defence Force and Parks Australia on 2 June. The vessels were inspected and found to be carrying diving gear to support more than 10 diverse in the water simultaneously and about six metric tonnes of illegally harvested sea cucumber, according to a press bulletin from AFMA.
Last month, the 30 Vietnamese fishermen apprehended in the bust were tried in Darwin Magistrates Court. All pleaded guilty and were given suspended jail sentences ranging from two to seven months. Both fishing vessels were confiscated by AFMA and destroyed in Cairns.
Acting Commander MBC Stephen Alexander praised the joint efforts of Australia’s maritime authorities during the action.
“These apprehensions are a great example of Australian government agencies working together to combat illegal fishing in our waters,” he said. “The ABF, along with its partner agencies, will be resolute in stopping illicit activities in Australian waters.
Parks Australia Head of Marine Protected Areas Jason Mundy said the area where the illegal fishing occurred was “a pristine reef ecosystem of national significance.”
“Illegal activities such as fishing threaten to deny current and future generations the opportunity to experience these natural assets,” he said. “This response will help to deter others from such illegal activity. Parks Australia welcomes the convictions and will continue to pursue action against those who undermine the protection and conservation of Australia’s marine reserves.”