Fifteen illegal Vietnamese fishers pleaded guilty to charges this week in Darwin’s Magistrates Court after a successful investigation led by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the Australian Border Force (ABF).

The master and 14 crew were convicted of illegal fishing and environmental protection offences for fishing in a Commonwealth Marine Reserve. In addition, the vessel has been destroyed; preventing it from being used for further exploitation of Australia’s marine environment.

On top of fines, the master received a four-month suspended jail sentence and 13 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 6 April 2017 by a surveillance aircraft. MBC continued to track and monitor the vessel, before being apprehended by ABF Cutter Cape Jervis on 10 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,” Mr Venslovas 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. “Illegal fishers attempting to exploit our well-managed fisheries have been put on notice – we are constantly surveilling our maritime domain. We will catch you, we will prosecute you, and you could lose your boat and your livelihood.”

Source Department of Immigration and Border Protection