Fishermen on board this Vietnamese vessel were remanded in Gladstone yesterday, suspected of illegally catching sea cucumbers.
Fishermen on board this Vietnamese vessel were remanded in Gladstone yesterday, suspected of illegally catching sea cucumbers. Australian Border Force

PHOTOS: Mouthwatering value of illegal fishing catch revealed

THE whopping dollar-value of seafood allegedly illegally caught off the coast of Gladstone has been revealed.

Gladstone's port was shot into the spotlight this morning as Australian Border Force agents swooped on two Vietnamese fishing boats.

The 29 crew, believed to be illegally fishing for sea cucumber "several hundred nautical miles" off Gladstone's shore, were brought to the city's port.

They will be taken to a Darwin detention centre.

Two Vietnamese fishing vessels and their crew of 29 men suspected of illegally fishing near Saumarez reef in the Coral Sea marine park have been apprehended.
Two Vietnamese fishing vessels and their crew of 29 men suspected of illegally fishing near Saumarez reef in the Coral Sea marine park have been apprehended. Australian Border Force

They face charges of breaching the Australian Fisheries Management Act 1991 and Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Sea cucumbers, a delicacy in Asian countries, can be worth between $10-70 per kilogram, meaning their catch of 13 tonnes could have cashed the fishermen in with a maximum of $910,000.

Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency task force within the Australian Border Force (ABF), working in cooperation with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) caught the vessel and shipped the crew to Gladstone at 9.30am yesterday.

The vessels were originally sighted by an MBC surveillance aircraft on 15 February 2017
"Foreign fishers seeking to take advantage and target our fish resources will be caught and run the risk of being prosecuted and having their boats confiscated and destroyed," AFMA's general manager operations Peter Venslovas said. 

The fate of these vessels will be determined after investigations by AFMA.

Penalties for illegal fishing for sea cucumbers could include maximum fines of up to $1.35 million, and possible forfeiture of vessels, catch and fishing equipment.

It's the fourth vessel caught illegally fishing off Gladstone's harbour since November, as Australian Border Force cracks down on illegal fishing.

"Of course the majority of them have been in the more northern parts of the reef, but what we are saying generally is that in recent months there has been a clear increase in the number of Vietnamese fishing vessels sighted and apprehended in Australia's north-eastern waters and the waters of our regional partners such as Papua New Guinea, Palau and New Caledonia," a Department of Immigration and Border Protection spokesperson said.



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