Response to the Environment Tasmania campaign to ban large factory freezer trawlers

24 January 2017

Environment Tasmania
Level 1, 100 Elizabeth Street
HOBART TAS 7000

Dear Environment Tasmania

I understand that Environment Tasmania is currently running a nationwide campaign seeking a permanent ban on large factory freezer trawlers in Australia’s Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) following the release of the Environment and Communications References Committee’s report into factory freezer trawlers in the Commonwealth SPF.

As the Assistant Minister responsible for fisheries, I want to see the fishing industry remain strong and sustainable, with Commonwealth fisheries management practices at the forefront of internationally recognised best practice. The Australian Government is committed to maintaining a balanced and science-based approach to all decisions regarding access to Commonwealth fisheries.

The government is considering the Committee’s report and is preparing a formal response in accordance with the principles of maintaining a balanced, science-based approach to the management of Commonwealth fisheries. I note this approach was also reflected in the dissenting report that was released by Australian Government senators.

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.

The total allowable catch for SPF species is allocated among operators based on their respective quota holdings.  This ensures that the fish stocks remain within sustainable levels regardless of the number or size of fishing boats.  As such, the size of the boat used to take the catch is immaterial to the long term sustainable management of the SPF.

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.

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 Agriculture and Water Resources’ website at www.agriculture.gov.au. The government will not be responding directly to campaign correspondence arising from Environment Tasmania or affiliated websites.

Yours sincerely

Anne Ruston

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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