Armed Aussies patrol Southern Ocean for poachers

Australia’s first armed civilian fisheries patrol vessel has returned to Hobart after nearly two months searching for poachers in the Southern Ocean.

The Antarctic supply ship, Aurora Australia, has spent the past 50 days patrolling Australian waters around Heard and MacDonald Islands, as part of the Federal Government’s campaign to combat illegal fishing of Patagonian Toothfish.

More than 30 customs officers on board the vessel were authorised to carry arms and board suspect boats for the first time.

Customs officer Keith Johnson says they did not find any poachers but believe the boat’s presence was a powerful deterrent.

"We had some very good intelligence from ashore which allowed us to position ourselves where we thought we might best be able to intercept any foreign fishermen if they were operating inside our area," he said.

"That turned out not to be the case so to a large extent it was about us being there ready to respond in case there were any unauthorized incursions into our zone."