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Torres Strait fear China and PNG deal

Darby Ingram -

Torres Strait Islander community leaders fear plans of a Chinese fish processing plant on the island of Daru will impact border security and the commercial fishing sector.

Located off the southern coast of Papua New Guinea, Daru Island is one of the few Torres Strait Islands that are governed by Papua New Guinea rather than Australia.

China's Ministry of Commerce has announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Papua New Guinea to build a $200 million comprehensive multi-functional fishery industrial park.

Community leaders believe the fishing facility will negatively affect nearby communities and their access to resources.

The fishery would be a six-hour boat ride to Thursday Island, just off the northern-most tip of Australia.

Community leaders have spoken up, expressing concerns about the impacts of commercial fishing and its sustainability, with fears China will take advantage of the positioning of Daru considering the agreement under the Torres Strait Treaty.

Under the Torres Strait Treaty, Papua New Guineans from 13 villages can cross the border and are allowed to fish freely in Australian waters.

Papua New Guineans are also allowed to take 25 per cent of the total allowable catch of rock lobsters within Australian waters, a law that has worked for both parties in the past.

The commercialisation of the fishing practice has caused concerns of overfishing among the Torres Strait community.

Community members have started a petition, asking for support to seek discussion with the Australian Federal Government to review the Torres Strait Treaty.

They are calling for a review of the Treaty.

"Torres Strait Islanders hold grave concerns and are anxious for their jobs, livelihoods, communities and culture," they said in the petition statement.

Torres Shire Mayor Vonda Malone added to the statement.

"We have to stand up and voice our concerns about it, because it will be on our doorstep. It will affect our communities, our people, our families, our resources," she wrote.

"We are dealing with a country that does not have the same values as us."

Find the petition here.

By Darby Ingram

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