Former Ministers media release
Australian patrol boat encounters pack ice danger as hot pursuit of fishing vessel enters 13th day - Wednesday, 20th August 2003
Joint Media Release - Senator Chris Ellison, Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ian Macdonald, Minister for Fisheries, Foresty and Conservation and Dr Sharman Stone MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment
The Australian Government today revealed how the Customs and Fisheries patrol boat Southern Supporter was forced to radio instructions to help a suspected illegal fishing vessel, that it has been pursuing, avoid pack ice in the Southern Ocean.
Justice and Customs Minister, Senator Chris Ellison, said the Southern Supporter's crew had provided navigational advice to the Viarsa to help the fishing vessel find its way out of waters dangerously clogged with ice.
Senator Ellison said the Viarsa had headed so far south in the Southern Ocean during the hot pursuit that it got very close to pack ice extending out from the Antarctic coastline.
"I am advised that the Southern Supporter radioed the Viarsa with advice about how it could extricate itself from these dangerous waters," Senator Ellison said.
"While it appears to have been primarily a one-way conversation, I am sure that the Viarsa's crew would have appreciated all the help they could get as it became a matter of survival."
Senator Ellison said he remained hopeful that the Viarsa's skipper would yet see reason and comply with Australia's request to head to a suitable port and submit his vessel to inspection.
"However, until that happens, the Southern Supporter will remain in pursuit," Senator Ellison said.
Federal Fisheries Minister, Senator Ian Macdonald, said that in nearly 13 days, the two boats had travelled more than 1,900 nautical miles south west from where the Southern Supporter first began pursuing the Viarsa inside the Australian Fishing Zone in the sub-Antarctic.
"As of this morning Australian Eastern Standard Time (20 August), they are some 1,200 nautical miles south of Cape Town in South Africa," Senator Macdonald said.
"The Australian Government was continuing discussions with several nations, including South Africa and the United Kingdom, who were keen to support our efforts to require the Viarsa to comply with Australian and international maritime laws.
"For operational reasons, I cannot go into further detail. What I can say is that the offers of help we are getting from some countries is heartening and demonstrates to me that there is a growing determination to put a stop to illegal fishing."
Senator Macdonald's Office: Philip Connole 02 6277 7270 or 0417 063 605
Senator Ellison's Office: Mairi Barton 02 6277 7260 or 0439 300 335
Dr Stone's Office: Amanda Kennedy 02 6277 2016 or 0423 577 045
Customs has conducted a radio interview with an officer on board the Southern Supporter. Audio files are available for download in the Media room.
Photographs of the Viarsa and the Southern Supporter are available in the Media room.
File vision of the Southern Supporter operating in rough conditions in the Southern Ocean on a patrol in December 2001 is available from Chris Schofield at Customs Corporate Communication on 0418 281 501.
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