fishing pirates flagged

Blitz on fishing pirates flagged – THE Federal Government is tight-lipped about a new assault to combat illegal fishing in northern Australian waters.

Federal Fisheries Minister Ian Macdonald yesterday refused to speculate on the operation, which will be
announced after he meets with his NT counterpart Kon Vatskalis in Darwin today.

The new operation was prompted by the increasingly brazen attempts by illegal fishermen to avoid detection and capture.

On Tuesday, illegal Indonesian fishermen threatened Customs officials with knives, machetes, burning poles and lead weights.

The dramatic eight-hour pursuit north of the Territory’s Wessel Islands in the Arafura Sea ended only when the Navy’s newest patrol boat HMAS Armidale joined the chase and opened fire with machine guns as a warning.

Earlier, Customs officers slowed the illegal vessel down to about 7km/h by lassoeing the propeller with a rope.
Customs and navy officers discovered a cache of two complete holds full of dried shark fin and more than 50 whole sharks weighing up to eight tonnes when they were finally able to board.

The Indonesian-flagged ice boat with nine crew aboard was equipped with a global positioning system, satellite phone, depth sounder, radios and detailed charts.

Lieutenant Commander of HMAS Armidale Andrew Maher said his crew were fired up on adrenaline to be involved in such a dangerous and difficult chase just two days into the patrol boat’s maiden voyage.

“The crew were clearly not intending to comply with orders to stop the boat without a significant show of force,” he said.

“We fired machinegun warning shots in front of the vessel and then deployed harassment tactics with the three boarding boats to try and convince them to give up.

“It was only our second day in operation and we’ve already achieved two boardings, which is indicative of the increased risk profile of some of these vessels and their commitment to fish in Australian waters illegally.”

HMAS Armidale is due to arrive in Darwin later today with the ice boat in tow

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