Response to Australian Marine Conservation Society

​​26 March 2019

Mr Darren Kindleysides   
Australian Marine Conservation Society
PO Box 5815
WEST END QLD 4101

Dear Mr Kindleysides

I understand the Australian Marine Conservation Society is reinvigorating its campaign to ban super trawlers and overseas fishing fleets in Australian waters and expressing concerns around the Australian Marine Park network. I am responding as I am the Assistant Minister responsible for fisheries.

As noted by the previous Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, in response to your previous campaigns, the concerns you raise are not based on fact. 

Conflating the Australian Government’s marine park arrangements, the existing legislative and policy framework for non-Australian flagged fishing boats and the use of ‘super-trawlers’ is misleading.

Your campaign raises the prospect of overfishing as a result of overseas fleets fishing in our waters. Overseas boats may be declared to be an Australian boat for a limited period for the purposes of fishing in circumstances prescribed by subsection 4(2) of the Fisheries Management Act 1991. Prior to making any such declaration the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) must be satisfied that there is an Australian entity in control of the operations of the boat in the Australian Fishing Zone, and that the nature of the boat’s operations justifies a declaration being made. If a declaration is made, the boat is subject to the same robust fisheries management regime as any other boat fishing in Commonwealth waters. Such measures include strict quota management, protected species risk mitigation, and monitoring and reporting requirements.

The commercial harvest of fish in Commonwealth waters is carefully regulated by AFMA based on rigorous stock assessments and informed by environmental risk assessments to manage risks to the broader marine environment. Commonwealth commercial fishing is largely quota managed, and quotas are set based on the amount of fish that can be sustainably taken from the water, independent of the size of the boat, or the fishing method used. This means the amount of fish allowed to be caught is not related to the size or capabilities of the fishing vessel.

The Australian Government considers super trawlers to be commercial fishing vessels over 130 metres in length. In 2015, the Fisheries Management Regulations 1992 were amended to make it a strict liability offence to use a boat for commercial fishing that is longer than 130 metres in the Australian Fishing Zone.

The Australian Government remains committed to protecting the marine environment and to sustainably managing our Commonwealth fisheries for the enjoyment of all Australians into the future. Commonwealth fisheries management is at the forefront of internationally-recognised best practice. As the Assistant Minister responsible for fisheries, I want to see the continuation of balanced, science-based decision making to ensure the fishing industry remains strong and sustainable.

The Australian Government has also recently implemented the world’s largest representative network of marine protected areas, significantly strengthening protection of Australia’s oceans. On 1 July 2018, five new management plans (covering 44 Australian Marine Parks) across the North, North-west, South-west, Temperate East and Coral Sea marine regions came into effect. Complementing the 2013 plan for the 14 South-east marine parks, this means that all 58 Australian Marine Parks are now under active management for the first time. Encompassing more than 2.8 million square kilometres, Australian Marine Parks will deliver strong protection and sustainable use outcomes that will benefit all Australians.

Although alternative network and zoning configurations have previously been proposed, none have provided on-water protection because the relevant management plans were not in effect. The current network design draws on the best available science and extensive consultation, including through an independent review and two rounds of statutory consultations that received over 130,000 submissions. The current zoning protects more conservation features like canyons, reefs and sea mounts under high levels of protection, compared to previously proposed zoning. This represents a world-class approach to marine park and ocean management that all Australians can be proud of.

This letter will be made available on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website at www.agriculture.gov.au. The government will not be responding directly to campaign correspondence arising from the Australian Marine Conservation Society or affiliated websites.

Yours sincerely

Richard Colbeck