Response to the Australian Marine Conservation Society campaign
2 March 2016
Australian Marine Conservation Society
PO Box 5815
WEST END QLD 4101
Dear Mr Kindleysides
I am writing to you in relation to the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s campaign to ‘ban the Geelong Star super trawler’.
I recognise the concerns of some in the community about the size of vessels operating in our fisheries. However, one part of the discussion that has been missing is that regardless of the size of the vessel, all boats operating in Commonwealth fisheries, including the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF), are subject to stringent Australian laws and rules. These laws and rules apply to conserve our natural resources and to make sure fish stocks are harvested sustainably to ensure Australians have access to sustainably fished seafood in the future. The total catch in the SPF is controlled by strict quotas which are based on the best scientific research available.
Australia has an independent regulator for fisheries, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). Any mid-water trawler operating in the SPF must have a vessel management plan (VMP) approved by AFMA before it can start fishing. A VMP is tailored by AFMA to each vessel’s operations and equipment. Specific measures in the Geelong Star’s VMP include the compulsory use of equipment designed to help marine mammals escape the net and zone based catch limits to reduce the risk of localised depletion. Additionally, there is an on-board observer to conduct scientific sampling, monitor catch limits and interactions with protected species. Any new information which becomes available about the fishing method and interactions with marine mammals can result in the VMP being updated. Full details of the Geelong Star’s VMP can be found on the AFMA website at afma.gov.au.
AFMA continues to monitor the location of the vessel using a global positioning system (GPS) and the requirement for all mid-water trawl vessels in the SPF to use electronic monitoring will also remain in place–this includes the use of on‑board cameras to monitor fishing activity. The operator of the Geelong Star, Seafish Tasmania, is taking additional measures to minimise marine mammal interactions such as implementing a range of safe setting and hauling procedures.
The government recognises the importance of protecting key species, including seals, dolphins and seabirds and all Commonwealth fisheries undergo regular environmental impact assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. That Act also requires all fishing operators to take all reasonable steps to ensure protected species are not killed, injured or harmed during fishing operations.
The SPF has been the subject of extensive and recent scientific research projects including review of the harvest strategy (i.e. management strategy evaluation) and the broader ecosystem impacts and this research informs government decision making for the fishery. Data on the size of Australian small pelagic fish stocks has also been refreshed. This research informs government decisions including the setting of total allowable catches for SPF commercial species. More detail about the research projects is available on the AFMA and Fisheries Research and Development Corporation websites.
The government takes seriously its responsibility to protect the environment, and to sustainably manage fisheries for the enjoyment of all Australians into the future. This is why the government places significant emphasis on scientific research, has a strong legislative and policy framework for managing fisheries and to ensure compliance, has an independent regulator. I am satisfied that the current balance is the right one.
Thank you for your organisation’s engagement on this issue. Please note 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 individually to campaign correspondence arising from the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s website.
Yours sincerelyAnne Ruston