Environmental Law and Sustainable Development in the Toothfish Fishery of Heard Island and McDonald Island.

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This paper will examine legal frameworks utilized by Australia to address overfishing in the Southern Ocean, specifically the Patagonian toothfish fishery around Heard Island and McDonald Islands, which is expected to potentially collapse within several years because of illegal fishing. This area is within Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone but is more than 4,000 kilometers from the nearest port, thus placing it far beyond the range of regulators and law enforcement. The area is also within the Southern Ocean, which falls under international legal frameworks, specifically the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas. The Heard and McDonald Islands area is a unique ecosystem, recognized as relatively untouched by human development. However, the amount of illegal fishing for toothfish in this area is estimated to equal the amount of legal fishing for toothfish. The market for the illegal catch is estimated at $1 billion. The size of this illegal fishing industry is believed to be due in large part to lack of regulation or even collusion by countries that lack legal frameworks and competent governance. In addition, the illegal fishing vessels use a complex legal arrangement to avoid detection and prosecution, including the use of front companies and registering in countries that are not signatories to international agreements.
Other barriers to protecting the biodiversity of the Heard Island and McDonald Islands toothfish fishery include Australia’s apparent lack of urgency about this effort. For example, there is a lack of law enforcement support to enforce domestic and international legal frameworks, with only one patrol vessel de...

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... for signatory 5 May 1980, 19 I.L.M. 841 (entered into force 7 April 1982).
- Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Annual Status Report: Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery, 21 May 2010.
- Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Ecosystem-based Fishery Management, 21 May 2010
- Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Illegal Foreign Fishing, 27April 2010.
- Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Australian Fisheries National Compliance Strategy , 27April 2010
- Australian Fisheries Management Authority ‘Managing Bycatch and Discarding’ 21 May 2010
- Australian Fisheries Management Authority , Strategic Assessment, 21 May 2010
- Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Australia’s Oceans Policy , 21 May 2010.
- Madrid Protocol, Australian Antarctic Division, Department of the Environment, 1 November 2009.

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