No charges for Indonesian fishers who survived deadly cyclone

No charges for Indonesian fishers who survived deadly cyclone

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority says it won’t lay charges against a group of Indonesian fishermen who were found shipwrecked off the WA coast after Tropical Cyclone Ilsa last month.

Key points:

  • 11 Indonesian fishers who were rescued off the WA coast have been deported
  • At least eight others died during the cyclone
  • The Australian Fisheries Management Authority says it won’t lay charges against the men

Eleven men were discovered stranded on a remote island on the Rowley Shoals, about 80 kilometres off the Kimberley coastline, by an official Australian aircraft surveying the area. 

The men survived for six days without food or water, and it is believed at least eight other fishers died in the cyclone.

The Indonesian government released footage of the group arriving in Jakarta, with the survivors greeted by their tearful loved ones at the international airport late last week. 

The men had spent time in immigration detention in Darwin, and were on their way to their home on the remote Rote Island.

The survivors have arrived back in Indonesia after being deported from Australia.(Supplied: Indonesian government)

A fisheries authority spokeswoman said the men would not be punished for venturing into Australian waters.

“Regarding the fishers involved in the incident, AFMA will not be pursuing a prosecution for fisheries offences,” she said.

More deaths inevitable

Darwin-based commercial fisher Grant Barker said action on the issue was well overdue.

Grant Barker operates his commercial fishing venture out of Darwin and Broome. (ABC Kimberley)

“It’s been going on forever, I’ve been in the game for 20 years up here — it’s fixable,” Mr Barker said.

“We need to go back to the system where the navy and Border Force guys can apprehend people off the boats, tow the boats back, fumigate and burn them,” he said.

“We need to start burning these illegal boats because there needs to be a consequence to stop them stealing our fish, stop them accessing our marine parks, and stop them killing themselves, which will happen again next wet season.”

Mr Barker said fishers were taking more and more risks by heading into tropical waters during the monsoonal season, and a spate of deaths last year should have been the impetus for action.

“We all need to get our heads together — Border Force, navy and the commercial fishing industry,” he said.

“We all need to have a meeting and work out how to stop these guys.”

The group has been transported back to Rote Island.(Supplied: Indonesian government)

Mr Barker said another tragedy was inevitable unless the Australian government stepped in.

“Some of the traditional boats can have up to nine or 10 people, and some of the kids are 13, 14 and 15-years-old … some of them don’t come home,” he said.

“It’s going to take years to educate a seven-year-old boy not to go to sea illegally and in that time, we’re just going to keep losing more and more Indonesian people who I have a lot of respect for. 

“They’re good seamen, but they’re breaking the law.”

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