Subject: Timor Sea talks on environment and other issues

Nrthern Territory News

January 24, 2002, Thursday

NT MP joins Timor talks; Illegal fishermen on meeting agenda

The environmental future of the resource-rich Timor and Arafura Seas will be discussed today during talks between Australia, Indonesia and East Timor.

This is the first time the three countries have come together to discuss the management of the seas, which have the most diverse range of saltwater life in the world.

The informal talks are expected to produce an agreement on their sustainable use.

The meeting in Townsville is expected to look at ecotourism, sharing ideas for subsistence fishing and stopping the use of cyanide and explosives by rogue Indonesian fishermen.

International law expert Merrilyn Wasson said a binding treaty was not on the cards yet.

"Hopefully we'll head towards a memorandum of understanding," Dr Wasson said. "We haven't got any regional seas agreement between the countries that border the seas and use them. Hopefully we can find some common ground on how we use them sustainably."

The talks will be attended by Indonesian and federal government officials, East Timor's new Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Northern Territory MP Marion Scrymgour, as well as oceans experts from Australia.

Dr Russell Reichelt, head of the Great Barrier Reef Co-operative Research Centre, said the talks could spark new, profitable uses for the seas by the indigenous communities living on the coasts, such as cultivating aquarium fish.

"The region is of strong interest to indigenous communities. In the NT, 85 per cent of all coasts to low water mark are under native title. In Indonesia, large numbers of communities depend on the sea for food, he said

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