Response to the Australian Marine Conservation Society campaign to ban factory freezer trawlers

10 February 2017

Mr Darren Kindleysides
Australian Marine Conservation Society   
PO Box 5815

Dear Mr Kindleysides

I understand that the Australian Marine Conservation Society is currently running a nationwide campaign seeking a permanent ban on factory freezer trawlers in Australia’s Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF). I note this campaign follows the release of the Environment and Communications References Committee’s report into factory freezer trawlers in the Commonwealth SPF.

Australia has a reputation as a supplier of safe, environmentally sustainable, high-quality seafood. Australia’s fisheries are internationally recognised as among the best managed in the world.

The Australian Government wants to see the fishing industry remain strong and sustainable, with Commonwealth fisheries management practices at the forefront of internationally recognised best practice.

The Senate committee’s key objective in undertaking this inquiry was to ensure that the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) is managed in a sustainable way that meets the needs of current users and future generations. No substantiated, validated scientific or economic evidence was presented to the Senate committee to indicate that management of the SPF fishery was not sustainable.

The Australian Government is committed to maintaining a balanced and science-based approach to all decisions regarding access to Commonwealth fisheries. Hearsay, anecdotes and unsubstantiated claims are neither a basis for sound policy nor exemplary fisheries management.

All boats operating in Commonwealth fisheries, including the SPF, are subject to Australia’s strict fisheries laws. The harvesting of fish in the SPF are governed by a quota management regime. 

The SPF is characterised as a large volume, low per-unit value fishery, with small oily fish that readily decompose. On-board processing and freezing capability optimises the quality and therefore the value of the fish product, allowing it to be used for human consumption rather than lower value uses such as fish meal.

Currently there are 298 boats operating in our Commonwealth fisheries, of this, around 88 boats have freezer capacity (of which some have processing capabilities) and 5 boats are ‘factory’ freezers.

‘Factory’ freezer vessels have been used extensively in Australia for more than 30 years, including in the blue grenadier fishery, Heard and McDonald Island fishery and Northern Prawn Fishery. To claim they are wreaking havoc on Australia’s marine life, fisheries and fishing communities is nonsense.

The Australian Government remains committed to protecting the environment and to sustainably managing our Commonwealth fisheries for the enjoyment of all Australians into the future.  

This letter will be made available on the Department of A​griculture and Water Resources’ website. The government will not be responding directly to campaign correspondence arising from the Australian Marine Conservation Society or affiliated websites.

Yours sincerely

Anne Ruston

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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