Publication Details

Gullett, W, Smooth sailing for Australia's automatic forfeiture of foreign fishing vessels, Environmental and Planning Law Journal, 22(3), 2005, 169-173. Copyright Lawbook Co 2005.


The High Court of Australia has brought to a close one chapter of the various legal proceedings arising out of Australia’s arrest of the Russian fishing vessel Volga in 2002. The vessel was arrested on the high seas immediately adjacent to Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) surrounding the Heard and McDonald Islands in the Southern Ocean. It was suspected (and later found as a matter of fact) to have been engaged in unlawful fishing for the prized Patagonian Toothfish within Australia’s EEZ two to three weeks prior to its detection and seizure by Australian authorities. The circumstances of the seizure and detention of the vessel and its senior crew led to a number of domestic legal proceedings in the Western Australian District and Supreme Courts and the Federal Court of Australia. There was also a largely successful application by Russia to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) for the prompt release of the vessel. ITLOS ordered Australia to promptly release the vessel upon the posting of what it considered to be a reasonable bond or other security of A$1.92 million. The ITLOS case concerned only the issue of the reasonableness of the conditions Australia set for the release of the vessel as required by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC).

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