CANBERRA, May 3, 2008: Illegal fishing in the Torres Strait is on the rise, threatening the recovery of vulnerable sea cucumber populations.
The number of Papua New Guinean boats apprehended in the Torres Strait Protected Zone has soared from three in 2007 to 15 already this year, the Australian government says.
Fisheries Minister Tony Burke said 10 of the boats caught this year were hunting for sea cucumbers, a slug-like animal which is a relative of the sea urchin and is highly prized in Asian cooking.
Mr Burke said the sea cucumber was overfished in Australian waters, and further intensive fishing could harm the species’ recovery.
Five of the apprehended boats were cray fishing.
Mr Burke said he discussed the problem with the PNG government this week while on a two-day visit to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait.
“I raised this matter with Papua New Guinean Minister for Fisheries Ben Semri and we had a positive discussion,” Mr Burke said on his return to Australia.
“We agreed that the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea should continue to work together to fight illegal fishing.”
Australian and PNG fishing authorities have already agreed to hold five coordinated patrols this year, Mr Burke said.
Officials would meet later this month to work on coordinating enforcement.
On his visit to Thursday Island, which is part of Australia, Mr Burke chaired the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority Stakeholder Forum, which was attended by officials from the Torres Strait Regional Authority. – AAP
Source: Cathy Alexander, National Indigeneous Times