March 2, 2006

Indonesia needs to do more on fishing: Australia PM

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Indonesia needs to try harder to stop
hundreds of illegal fishermen venturing into Australia's
northern waters, Prime Minister John Howard said on Thursday.

Australia says Indonesian fishermen are venturing into its
waters to fish for shark fin because they have depleted their
own stocks. Shark fin is a delicacy in Asia and can earn
fishermen up to A$200 ($146) a kilo.

"There is a case for more effort by the Indonesians," said
Howard, who marked a decade as prime minister on Thursday.

Howard told a news conference that he had discussed the
issue at length with some of his ministers earlier in the week.

"There are a number of things we have in train including
greater cooperation with Indonesia and engaging them more in
stopping them coming in the first place, and also putting more
Australian resources toward stopping the fishing," he said.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer raised the
issue of illegal fishing with his Indonesian counterpart Hassan
Wirajuda during a visit to Jakarta on Monday.

Australia and Indonesia are planning joint patrols to stop
Indonesian fishermen from illegally straying into Australia's
northern waters and Indonesian police are planning to be more
involved in investigating the vessels.

Australian authorities intercepted a record 607 illegal
fishing boats in its waters in 2005, more than double the
number in 2004. It seized 280 of them, and confiscated the
fishing gear and catch of the other 327.

Australia detained 2,175 people during 2005 for illegally
fishing in its northern waters.

Last week, Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said Australia
was also monitoring what he said was more than 140 suspected
illegal fishing vessels operating in the Arafura Sea near
northern Australian waters.