Fisheries Minister Jon Ford said Western Australians would be shocked to learn how close illegal fishing boats were coming to our northern shores.
Mr Ford said illegal shark-fin fishing, with alleged links to Asian crime syndicates, demanded a new urgency from the Commonwealth.
“They should be dealing with this fishing invasion as a border security issue,” he said.
“The Federal Fisheries Minister Ian Macdonald is reported as saying that patrols across northern Australia are adequate, but last week he was pleading for WA fisheries officers to be sent to Darwin to take part in an operation against illegal fishing boats.”
Mr Ford also warned that the threat of bird flu spreading from Indonesia added to the urgent need to take strong action.
“Illegal fishing is out of control right across northern Australia,” he said.
“Shark stocks are being plundered as motorised fishing boats from Asia raid our waters for shark-fin, which is like gold to them.
“The illegal shark catch in Australian waters could be as high as 25,000 tonnes per year, or more than one million sharks.”
The Minister said Coastwatch aircraft spotted more than 8,000 boats last financial year, but few of them were caught.
“These boats also bring the risk of marine pests and diseases,” he said.
Mr Ford again urged the Commonwealth to reverse its decision to withdraw funding of $1.2million a year for WA’s International Operations Unit, which combats illegal fishing.
“The Commonwealth must show that it is fair dinkum about border protection, and fighting illegal fishing,” he said.
Minister's office: 9425 4200