Jon Ford

Jon Ford

Minister for Employment Protection; Regional Development; Fisheries; the Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne

    Commonwealth funding cut threatens illegal fishing unit

    10/09/2005 12:00 AM

    Fisheries Minister Jon Ford said Western Australia was being forced to disband its highly trained International Operations Unit, which combats illegal fishing incursions by foreign boats on behalf of the Commonwealth.

    Mr Ford said the Commonwealth had told his department that annual funding of $1.2million to the State would end next March.

    “The politicians and bureaucrats in Canberra want to withdraw the service to Darwin which will leave WA’s northern fishing grounds even more exposed,” he said.

    “This will also increase the safety risk for commercial fishermen, charter operators and recreational boaters who are increasingly encountering illegal Indonesian fishers close to the Kimberley coast.

    “These boats also present a significant risk to WA through the introduction of marine pests and diseases.

    “My department is already making plans to transfer eight specialist officers to other duties, which is an incredible waste of expertise and not in the interests of the WA community or Australia.

    “I am told that on average over the past month, two to three foreign boats are being sighted every day off the Kimberley coast.

    “These are the same shark grounds that I recently closed to WA fishermen to protect stocks, yet blatant illegal fishing by foreign boats is thriving.”

    The Minister said it was alarming how many boats were seen off the coast and how few were being caught.

    “We need the Commonwealth to step up to the mark and do their job - not transfer resources to Darwin,” he said.

    Mr Ford said the arrest of an Indonesian boat near Rowley Shoals on Wednesday by patrol boat Walcott was good work.

    “This was a routine patrol of a protected marine park,” he said.

    The officers were authorised by the Commonwealth to make an arrest when they spotted the 10m boat.

    The Minister said fisheries officers were investigating whether the skipper was illegally fishing inside the Australian Fishing Zone, and whether charges should be laid.

    Minister's office: 9425 4200