View Full Version : Fears Of Chinese Fishing Invasion

16-02-2006, 07:05 PM
Fears of Chinese fishing invasion

Mark Dodd

February 16, 2006
AN "explosive" confrontation is looming between illegal foreign poachers operating in northern Australian waters and local fishermen - a stand-off made more volatile by fears Chinese syndicates are preparing to target the vulnerable Kimberley coast.

The Panama-registered Chen Long, a 75m Chinese "mother ship" arrested while fishing illegally off the northern Wessell Islands on Sunday, is expected to arrive in Darwin today under navy escort.

With a crew of 18 Chinese nationals, the refrigerated cargo ship was carrying 640 tonnes of reef fish - 270 tonnes of which is believed poached.

The arrest has rung alarm bells in Canberra. The federal Government is already under fire for its failure to stop rampant illegal Indonesian fishing in the fragile northern area.

"Mate, things are going to explode up here," northern shark fishery spokesman Doug Rogers said yesterday. "What are our rights as Australians to defend ourselves in Australian waters against people we believe are basically pirates?

"We've been telling those people in Canberra for two years this was going to happen, and they would not listen."

Mr Rogers said Broome and Darwin-based commercial fishermen had long feared the arrival of well-organised Chinese syndicates.

"We're anticipating as soon as the monsoon season clears in May we'll be seeing another massive flood of illegal boats," he told The Australian. "These are not traditional boats but a significant number of powered boats that can move quickly in and out of the Australian fishing zone at dark."

His concerns were given qualified support by the Broome-based head of the West Australian Fisheries Department, Paul Fitzpatrick.

As poachers retreated from areas that had become depleted of fish stocks, he said, Australia's tightly managed northern fishery offered highly profitable returns, despite the risks.

"The concern is that they (the Chinese) are here and certainly we don't want to see them off our northwest coast," he said. "That catch of 270 tonnes would be a huge impost on a tightly managed industry."

But a spokesman for federal Fisheries Minister Eric Abetz said it was too early to draw conclusions.

"We want to wait until we do a proper investigation before commenting," he said.

According to the latest figures from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, 39 illegal Indonesian fishing boats have been arrested so far this year. Hundreds of Indonesian crew were arrested and deported, while repeat offenders were jailed for several months and their gear confiscated.