Joint action by Australia and Indonesia to contain illegal fishing trade

A satellite image by DigitalGlobe showing two fishing trawlers beside the cargo ship Silver Sea 2 in July. Photo: AP

As the world continues to search for an effective way to deal with illegal fishing, Australia and Indonesia have been held up as a success story.South-east Asia has the highest number of fishing vessels in the world and for a time Indonesian ships fishing illegally in Australia’s northern waters were a source of great diplomatic strain and environmental concern. Vice-president of ocean policy at the World Wildlife Fund, Michele Kuruc, said the co-operation shown between Australia and Indonesia to tackle illegal fishing in the region should be an example of how to resolve a problem often considered too difficult to solve. “You don’t have to look much further than those two countries to see what co-operation really did,” she said. “An intensive effort to raise awareness was made at every level and it worked.”

Indonesian vessels fishing illegally in Australian waters were intercepted and arrests made but Ms Kuruc said while enforcement played a part, tackling the problem “government to government, minister to minister” was crucial to ensure long-term change. The co-operation shown by the two countries was also important because it set a standard for the region. While illegal fishing is undeniably a global problem, often it was more efficient to tackle it at a local level, she said. Globally it is estimated that up to $US23 billion ($31 billion) is lost each year due to illegal fishing. However, Ms Kuruc said given much of the illegal activity was associated with criminal syndicates, this was likely a conservative figure.