Responses to Stop the Trawler Alliance campaign - 28 October 2014
28 October 2014
Ms Rebecca Hubbard
Stop the Trawler Alliance
Dear Ms Hubbard
I understand the Stop the Trawler Alliance is currently running a nationwide campaign seeking a permanent ban on ‘super trawlers’ in Australian waters. I am writing to you to reaffirm that Australia’s fisheries management practices follow internationally recognised best practice and the government is committed to maintaining a balanced and science-based approach to all decisions regarding access to Commonwealth fisheries.
I recognise your concerns about the size of vessels that could operate in Commonwealth fisheries. However, in a well-managed fishery, the number or size of the fishing vessels is largely irrelevant to the sustainability of the target stocks because catches are maintained at sustainable levels through catch restrictions which limit the total catch of targeted stocks. Commonwealth-managed fisheries have conservative catch limits to ensure the health of our fisheries into the future and are consistent with internationally recognised best practice. Additionally the Australian Fisheries Management Authority monitors bycatch levels across each fishery to ensure bycatch is being minimised. Where necessary for a particular fishery each fishing vessel is required to have a plan in place to reduce bycatch and an appropriate level of independent observers.
In the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery, the total catch limit is currently set at 7.5 per cent of the estimated total fish population. This means that 92.5 per cent of the estimated fish stock is left in the water. This is even more precautionary than international guidance. This recognises the importance of small pelagic species to the food chain, and in supporting other fisheries. The government is committed to maintaining a balanced and science-based approach to all decisions.
Two independent expert panels have been appointed to assess the potential environmental impact of large mid-water trawl vessels in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery. The first panel reported to the Environment Minister, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, in October this year and is due to be published on the Department of Environment’s website in late November. The second panel will report in March 2015. Following the release of the panel reports the government will consider whether any additional regulation supported by evidence is required in this fishery.
Fisheries are a public resource and the Australian Government is accountable for the sustainable management of all fisheries. We recognise the significant contribution of the fishing industry, both recreational and commercial, to our economy. Limiting the impact of fishing operations on the environment while ensuring a valuable fishing industry is paramount for the Australian Government.
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.