Navy may fire on armed illegal fishermen
By John Kerin and Patrick Walters
AUSTRALIAN naval ships could be authorised to fire on illegal fishing vessels after a sophisticated Indonesian fishing boat fitted with iron spikes and carrying a crew armed with machetes and guarded by pitbull terriers evaded arrest by an Australian patrol boat.
HMAS Wollongong gave chase to the large and well-prepared Indonesian fishing boat in a pre-dawn hunt off the Wessel Islands in the Arafura Sea on Wednesday.
But the fishing boat crew resisted being boarded after ignoring warning shots the Wollongong fired to get the vessel to stop.
The poachers then escaped into dangerous uncharted shoal waters, forcing the Wollongong to give up the pursuit.
The Wollongong had been tracking the vessel since Tuesday afternoon.
“They were clearly prepared for an opposed boarding,” a navy source told The Australian last night.
Defence Minister Robert Hill said if early reports of the incident were correct, the Government might have to examine whether tougher measures were needed against illegal fishing boats