Responses to Stop the Trawler Alliance campaign - 28 May 2015

28 May 2015

Ms Rebecca Hubbard
Stop the Trawler Alliance

Dear Ms Hubbard

I understand the Stop the Trawler Alliance is currently running a nationwide campaign ‘Protect our dolphins, seals and fisheries’. I am writing to you to affirm that we are taking all reasonable steps to mitigate further marine mammal mortalities in the Small Pelagic Fishery.

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 fishing operators  are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure species protected by the Act, including dolphins and seals, are not killed, injured or harmed during fishing operations. In addition, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is subject to a Ministerial Direction requiring it, amongst other things, to manage the broader environmental impacts of fishing, including minimising the level of interactions with threatened or otherwise protected species. The fishing community consider themselves custodians of our ocean, and take this responsibility very seriously. 

As with any mid-water trawl vessel fishing in the Small Pelagic Fishery, the Geelong Star is required to have an AFMA approved Vessel Management Plan in place. The plan is tailored specifically to the operations of the Geelong Star and requires the vessel to apply a range of measures and actions to ensure interactions with marine mammals and seabirds are minimised.

Measures in the plan for the Geelong Star include the use of a marine mammal excluder device which allows marine mammals to escape from the net and catch limits within defined zones to reduce any potential risk of localised depletion of fish stocks. In addition, the plan applies closures to prevent interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species. Trained AFMA observers monitor interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species, as is the case in all Commonwealth managed fisheries.

The news of dolphin and seal mortalities was devastating for all involved. A significant amount of effort went into finding ways to further mitigate these interactions. As new information becomes available about the fishing method and interactions with marine mammals the management measures will be adapted where necessary.

In response to the recent mortalities, additional measures to help protect dolphins have been implemented by AFMA. These prohibit fishing at night and zone closures triggered by any dolphin mortality. These new measures are effective immediately. A copy of the new management measures for the Geelong Star, and the measures applicable in other fisheries, is available on the AFMA website at www.afma.gov.au.

Commercial fish stocks are a public resource and the Australian Government is accountable for their sustainable use. I am satisfied that the current management of Australian fisheries, including the Small Pelagic Fishery, is based on the best available science, protects the future of our natural resources and lays the foundation for a sustainable Australian fishing industry for future generations. I will continue to work closely with the Minister for the Environment and AFMA to ensure all reasonable steps are taken to mitigate further marine mammal mortalities. 

This letter will be made available on the Department of Agriculture’s website at www.agriculture.gov.au. The Government will not be responding directly to campaign correspondence arising from Stop the Trawler or affiliated websites.

Yours sincerely

Richard Colbeck

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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