A growing number of international experts and conservationists are warning that Australia’s offshore fisheries are under threat from a new wave of illegal fishing by people smugglers and criminals.
The ABC’s Inside Story on the Australian Borderland reports that the illegal fishing has become a major source of revenue for smugglers and organised crime groups, who have taken advantage of a boom in migrant workers from Africa and Asia to supply the illegal market in the country’s offshore fishing industry.
In a recent investigation, the ABC revealed that many boats were hijacked by people-smugglers, often posing as migrants.
“People who are caught smuggling in the Pacific are paid around $150 a head, but they’re still paying about $30,000 for a boat to go to the Philippines,” said one boat smuggler, speaking anonymously.
He said many boats, including some operated by a group called the Sea Lion, had been hijacked, and many were sold for $60,000 to $90,000.
More recently, the Australian Government has been working to deal with the problem of people-slavery in the sea.
It has introduced a number of measures to deal directly with the issue, including introducing a new offence of smuggling in a ship and vessel carrying more than 15 people, a new law on human trafficking, a crackdown on human smugglers and their boats, and new anti-human trafficking legislation.
Australia’s federal minister for tourism, Michael McCormack, has promised to “stop the scourge of human trafficking” by introducing new laws to target human trafficking and organised criminal activity.
But he has said the laws will not be effective because of the complexities of the situation.
“I’m absolutely confident that if we do anything, we can reduce this scourge, we will, because we have to,” Mr McCormack told reporters in Sydney last week.
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