27 July 2015
Ms Rebecca Hubbard
Stop the Trawler Alliance
Dear Ms Hubbard
I understand the Stop the Trawler Alliance is currently running a nationwide campaign to ‘Support the Small Pelagic Fishery Pledge’. I am writing to you to reaffirm that we are taking all reasonable steps to mitigate further marine mammal deaths in the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF).
The Australian Government recognises the importance of protecting key species, including seals, dolphins and seabirds. Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act) fishing operators are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure species protected by the Act are not killed, injured or harmed during fishing operations. In addition, the government regulator, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), is responsible for managing the broader environmental impacts of Commonwealth commercial fishing, including minimising the impact on protected species and supporting the diversity of fisheries ecosystems.
I note and share concerns about dolphin and seal deaths. In developing the FV Geelong Star’s Vessel Management Plan (VMP), a significant amount of effort went into finding ways to minimise interactions with seals and dolphins. This effort has continued: the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) recently hosted a successful technical workshop on options for mitigating marine mammal interactions in the SPF. I understand the outcomes will be publically available soon on the FRDC website at frdc.com.au. Unfortunately, there is always a risk of unintended interactions with marine mammals in many on-water activities, including mid-water trawling. However, I can assure you that every effort is being made to minimise these risks by adopting and applying world best bycatch mitigation techniques and technologies.
As to the remarks about transparency, extensive information is available publically through the AFMA website (afma.gov.au), including the reports of the expert panel, supporting scientific research, the FV Geelong Star’s VMP, the fisheries management plan and harvest strategy for the SPF.
Australian fisheries are rightly regarded as some of the best managed in the world. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences’ Fishery status reports 2013–14 shows that, for the first time in eight years, no fisheries managed solely by the Commonwealth are classified as subject to overfishing. The SPF has been the subject of extensive and recent scientific research projects covering a range of themes from the impacts of mid-water trawlers to small pelagic fish and their impact on other parts of the ecosystem. We have also refreshed our data on the size of Australian small pelagic fish stocks. All this research informs government decisions. More detail about several of the research projects is available on the FRDC website.
This letter will be made available on the Department of Agriculture’s website at www.agriculture.gov.au. The government will not be responding individually to campaign correspondence arising from Stop the Trawler or affiliated websites.
cc the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment