- The government of Mauritius has agreed to play its part in the struggle against illegal fishing by closing its ports to "pirate" operators, damaging the environment and the economics of fishing. This was informed by the Australian Fisheries Minister, who had met with Mauritian authorities in Port Louis.
Mauritian Prime Minister Paul Bérenger and Fisheries Minister Sylvio Michel last week had received Australian Fisheries Minister Ian Macdonald in Port Louis, where the issue of illegal fishing in the southern Indian Ocean was raised.
Mauritius has often been accused of harbouring so-called "pirate" fishing vessels, raiding valuable stocks of the rare Patagonian toothfish and other threatened species in the Southern Ocean. According to environmentalist groups, fish pirates plundering the toothfish of the Southern Ocean "know that they can unload their illegal catch with next to no questions asked" in some of the region's ports. In particular, port authorities of Mauritius and Namibia have been named by these groups.
The Mauritian government however indicated it is longing to rid itself of this negative image. After the Mauritian-Australian meeting, the government of Mauritius announced its commitment to close off the Port of Saint Louis to illegal fishers at large. The deal was hailed by the Australian Ministry of Fisheries.
- The commitment from Mauritius is to stop illegal operators by not providing them with a base to offload their illegal cargoes, an Australian press release said today. This Mauritian commitment was said to send a message to the leaders of other nations who might have illegal fishers operating out their back door "that the world supports them taking a stance against those plundering world resources," Australian Minister Macdonald stated.
- Prime Minister Bérenger assured me that his government wanted to be regarded as a responsible fishing nation, said the Australian Minister, and PM Bérenger had added that "he was concerned at the widely held belief that Port Louis had supported illegal operators in the past."
The Mauritian Head of Government had further indicated he would be taking "all steps possible to ensure boats without proper licensing, without precise Catch Documentation Scheme papers, or without effective flag-state control would be refused unloading and support facilities at Mauritius."
- In my meeting with the Port Authority at Port Louis, I was also given assurances that the Port Authority would be vigilant in not supporting fishing vessels suspected of illegal operations, said the Australian Minister.
Minister Michel also raised with his Australian counterpart the possibility of Australian help or the provision of patrol boats for his country, but Mr Macdonald had "indicated this support would be unlikely," the Australian government reports.
- I have, however, discussed with the French officials in Reunion the possibility of other nations supporting Mauritius in the better management of its fisheries and fishing vessels using Mauritius facilities, added the Australian Fisheries Minister.
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