Vietnamese fishing vessel apprehended at Lihou Reef

This is a joint media release with Australian Fisheries Management Authority and Parks Australia

A Vietnamese fishing vessel suspected of illegally fishing in Australian waters has been apprehended off the coast of Cairns. 

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) and Parks Australia apprehended the vessel and its 15 crew near Lihou reef in the Coral Sea.

The vessel was initially sighted on 3 February 2017 by an MBC surveillance aircraft, approximately 325 nautical miles east of Cairns, Queensland and 172 nautical miles inside the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (AEEZ).

ABF Cutter Storm Bay responded to the sighting and after a short pursuit intercepted the vessel.

The crew were apprehended, with the vessel and crew being escorted to Cairns for further investigation by AFMA and Parks Australia for breaches of Australian Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Acting Commander MBC Stephen Alexander said this is another example of the efforts of Australian Government agencies working together to detect and apprehend vessels illegally fishing in Australian waters.

“Australia’s maritime domain exceeds 10 million square kilometres, but no matter where these boats are, our officers will continue to work tirelessly and in collaboration with our partners to ensure that Australia’s waters remain free from illegal fishing,” Acting Commander Alexander said.

“Apprehension of this vessel should serve as a warning to illegal foreign fishers that this behaviour will not be tolerated in Australia’s waters.”

General Manager Fisheries Operations Peter Venslovas said although this was the 10th foreign boat caught since July 2016, the number of illegal boats fishing illegally in Australian waters is significantly down from record highs a decade ago.

“Our presence and strong enforcement efforts on the water along with our international efforts has resulted in the dramatic decline in illegal fishing,” Mr Venslovas said

“However, it is important to remain vigilant as the threat remains with illegal vessels operating in waters close to our borders.”

Parks Australia’s Director of Marine Parks Compliance, Dr Andrew Read, said Lihou Reef had been a sanctuary since 1982 and was one of Australia’s most pristine reef ecosystems.

"Ensuring illegal fishing activities including foreign fishing are stopped is essential for the protection and conservation of this highly valued marine habitat,” Dr Read said.

“Parks Australia shares the determination of our partnering agencies in responding rapidly to these potentially damaging incursions.”

More information on how Australia is working to combat illegal fishing can be found at 



Media contacts:

AFMA: 0437 869 860

Immigration and Border Protection: 02 6264 2244

Parks Australia: 0416 911 968




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