Guilty plea in Darwin court

AMFA Vietnamese fishermen have pleaded guilty in a Darwin court to fishing illegally in Australian waters

Fifteen Vietnamese fishermen pleaded guilty to charges this week in an Australian court. The master and fourteen crewmen were convicted of illegal fishing and environmental protection offences for fishing in a Commonwealth Marine Reserve.

The case was heard at Darwin’s Magistrates Court after a successful investigation led by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the Australian Border Force (ABF).

The vessel has been destroyed and in addition to fines, the skipper received a four-month suspended jail sentence. Thirteen crew each received suspended jail sentences ranging between two and three months. One crew member, who was a repeat offender, received a total of five months’ imprisonment to be served immediately.

Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency task force within the ABF, initially detected the illegal Vietnamese fishing vessel in Australian waters on 6th April 2017 by a surveillance aircraft. MBC continued to track and monitor the vessel, before it was apprehended by ABF Cutter Cape Jervis on 10th April. At the time of boarding four divers were in the water collecting sea cucumber.

AFMA’s General Manager of Operations Peter Venslovas said that in addition to the prosecution of offenders and the destruction of boats apprehended in Australian waters, Australia also works closely with its regional partners to help combat illegal fishing on a collective basis.

“AFMA works in-country with our neighbouring countries throughout the year on capacity-building activities to enhance fisheries enforcement capabilities, and participates in cooperative patrols aimed at protecting fish stocks in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

“This is in addition to the work we are doing through our international networks such as INTERPOL and the Regional Plan of Action to Promote Responsible Fishing Practices, of which Vietnam is a partner nation.”

Acting Commander MBC Jo Crooks said this apprehension and conviction once again highlights Australia’s whole-of-government effort, along with its regional partners, to stop the illegal exploitation of Australia’s marine natural resources.

“We are constantly alert and responsive to anything that threatens our marine environment,” Acting Commander Crooks said. “We will catch you, we will prosecute you, and you could lose your boat and your livelihood.”

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