Jon Ford

Jon Ford

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

    Prime Minister takes easy option on illegal fishing crisis

    29/09/2005 12:00 AM

    Fisheries Minister Jon Ford has rejected the Prime Minister’s claim that the Commonwealth’s response to illegal fishing off northern Australia’s coastline was adequate.

    Speaking on ABC talkback radio today, John Howard said the system was working.

    “This was after the arrest of four illegal boats and a few shots being fired by an Australian patrol boat,” Mr Ford said.

    He said the Prime Minister was not at all convincing.

    “This crisis has been building up for several years,” Mr Ford said.

    “Alarming numbers of illegal shark-fin boats are fishing in Australian waters and they are coming closer to our shores.”

    The Minister said Coastwatch aircraft spotted more than 8,000 boats last financial year, but few of them were caught.

    “Mr Howard should be embarrassed by these figures,” he said.

    “It is too easy to claim that the system is working, but Australians will not be fooled.”

    Mr Ford said a long-term solution must be found urgently and the Commonwealth should show some leadership.

    “I am also concerned that Mr Howard tried to downplay this as a threat to fishing assets, rather than a border protection issue,” he said.

    “However the Prime Minister wants to describe this crisis, the fact is that thousands of shark-fin boats - with alleged links to organised crime in some cases - are invading our waters.”

    The Minister also said the two new navy patrol boats promised by the Commonwealth might not be based at Dampier for another three years.

    He also repeated his plea for the Commonwealth to reverse its decision to withdraw funding of $1.2million a year for WA’s International Operations Unit, which combated illegal fishing.

    Minister's office: 9425 4200