Western Australia could be forced to imprison more than 600 illegal fishermen if poachers continue to be apprehended at the current rate.
Justice Minister John D’Orazio says that the estimate was provided to him by the Department of Justice.
“Currently, we have 95 illegal fishermen serving sentences in WA and that is costing us almost $200,000 a week,” Mr D’Orazio said.
“Another 600 would be enough to completely fill our largest prison and would cost the State $1million each week.”
The Minister said the State Government would ask the Federal Government to help meet the cost of keeping illegal fishermen in the State’s prisons.
“Initially, we will be seeking $7.8million to help fund a new prison work camp specifically to accommodate the fishermen,” he said.
“Managing cultural and language differences, health problems and interaction with other prisoners all add to the cost of keeping them in our prisons.
“I am hoping WA will get a fairer deal with the appointment of a new Federal Fisheries Minister.
“Increasing numbers of fishermen are being caught raiding WA waters, because of the Federal Government’s failure to protect our borders.
“Heavier penalties being introduced by the State Government will deter illegal fishing, but it also means they will extend the time poachers spend in prison.
Mr D’Orazio said the Federal Government had a lot of catching up to do.
“In October 2005, the Federal Government announced an additional $88million to combat illegal fishing and protect our borders,” he said.
“This included a promise to take responsibility for the illegal fisherman - transferring them to a federal facility within six hours of their arriving on shore.
“Four months down the track, Western Australians must be wondering where the money went.
“There has been no let up in the intrusions, and we are left with the bill!”
Minister's office: 9213 7150