Government faces $30m suit

Published: Thursday 15 December 2005

Surface tension Five fishermen have been acquitted by the district court jury in Perth, Australia, against poaching rare Patagonian toothfish worth around us $1 million. The damages claimed from the Australian federal government could exceed us $30 million. The fishing boat owner and the charter company that used it are trying to recover the us $5million vessel Viarsa 1, the more than us $1 million value of the catch and the income lost, since the boat was impounded for two years. The fishermen were captured in October 2003 after a long chase across three oceans costing millions of dollars.

The court ruled that authorities had not actually seen the men fishing in the Australian zone and that the case had been based on circumstantial evidence. The lawsuit is an embarrassing setback for the government in its fight against poaching. The acquittal means the federal court action will continue, though the government will have to prove that the crew was illegally fishing, to justify the boat's seizure.

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