Vietnamese Debris Links to Illegal Fishing Vessels

Tangaroa Blue Foundation provided information to both the Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy and the Australian Border Force (ABF) after hundreds of Vietnamese water bottles were documented during the 2016 Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) events in Cape York.

As part of Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI), volunteers not only record how many of each item has been found during beach/river clean-ups, but also any brand and barcode information that might be on the item to help track it back to the source.

Heidi Taylor, Managing Director of Tangaroa Blue Foundation said, ‘We have been working with local communities, volunteers, Indigenous Rangers and AMDI partners on large scale, remote beach clean-up events in Cape York since 2011, so we have pretty comprehensive database on what regularly washes up along this section of coast. We were able to quickly identify several Vietnamese water bottle brands that we had never seen before, that were washing up in large numbers, and were very new, with expiry dates of 2017 on the labels. This indicated to us a source that was close by, and that these bottles had definitely not floated from Vietnam’.

ABF Regional Commander for Queensland, Terry Price, said the information passed on from the foundation would assist with the general response to illegal foreign fishing in Australian waters. ‘We are always grateful for this type of information, which can be of vital assistance in our work to combat the scourge of illegal fishing in our waters’, Regional Commander Price said. ‘The ABF is alert to the increase of illegal foreign fishing attempts, particularly from Vietnamese vessels. We are responding to this threat with the largest on-water fleet yet, combined with a variety of intelligence sources such as this’.

Since January 2016, a number of Vietnamese fishing vessels have been intercepted illegally fishing for beche de mer (sea cucumber) in the Coral Sea. Those involved are detained by ABF while AFMA considers possible charges, and they are subsequently removed from Australia once all legal matters are finalised.

Mr Jonathan Benyei, Assistant Secretary for the Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy said, ‘It is a privilege to work with partners like Tangaroa Blue across the northern half of Australia. Tangaroa Blue and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ranger groups play a vital role in conducting biosecurity surveillance to protect, maintain and build cultural heritage, environmental assets and our freedom from pests and diseases. This is critical if we wish to maintain our more than $46 billion agricultural exports to overseas markets. Tangaroa Blue Foundation has a longstanding relationship with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. Working closely with various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ranger groups, the Foundation provides vital information to the department on marine debris, which has the potential to carry exotic weeds and pests’.

Under the Agricultural Competitiveness and Developing Northern Australia White Papers, the Australian Government has committed $200 million to improve biosecurity and analysis to better target critical biosecurity risks.

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