The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Joint Media Release

24 November 2003

The Minister For Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer  and The Minister For Fisheries, Forestry And Conservation Senator Ian Macdonald

Maritime Agreement Sends a Strong Message to Illegal Fishing Operators

Australia and France have today signed an agreement on maritime cooperation which paves the way for tougher action against illegal fishing operations in the Southern Ocean.

The treaty establishes a formal framework for cooperative surveillance and research activity by France and Australia in our respective territorial seas and exclusive economic zones in the Southern Ocean.

Australia and France share a common desire to protect the valuable fish resources found in our neighbouring exclusive economic zones in the Southern Ocean and the unique marine environment of those waters.

The treaty provides for cooperative surveillance activity and will ensure that both Australia and France have a more complete picture of activities in our respective remote waters.

Under the treaty, France and Australia have agreed to exchange information on the location, movements and licensing of fishing vessels and will work more closely together to fight illegal fishing.

Over the past decade, illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean has increased and valuable Patagonian Toothfish have been targeted by foreign fishing vessels in Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone around Heard Island and the McDonald Islands.

The signing of this treaty follows the apprehension of the suspected illegal fishing vessel Viarsa 1 in August this year and demonstrates the seriousness with which Australia and other countries view the threat of illegal fishing.

The treaty also shows the high level of cooperation between countries on illegal fishing issues and sends a strong message to illegal fishing operators who seek to plunder the world’s oceans, completely disregarding the long-term damage they cause for the sake of a short-term profit.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Mr Downer's office) 02 6277 7500, David Crisafulli (Senator Macdonald) (07) 4771 3066

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