Conservation and recreational fishing groups are extremely concerned by the new AFMA arrangements to consult stakeholders on the Small Pelagic Fishery. This fishery is the target of the massive factory trawler Geelong Star and an issue of great public outrage.
“The Small Pelagic Fishery is now the only major federal government-managed fishery which does not have its own Resource Assessment Group, despite the huge level of public concern around it’s operations and impacts. AFMA have systematically reduced meaningful stakeholder engagement in this fishery. Recreational fishers and conservationists are being increasingly sidelined from fisheries management processes,” said Jon Bryan from the Tasmanian Conservation Trust and former conservation representative on the Small Pelagic Fishery Resource Assessment Group.
“As the recreational fishing representative on this formal Assessment Group, I repeatedly raised concerns about the impacts of factory freezer trawlers and the lack of fisheries management plans that could cope with the new and heightened threat to our fisheries. But AFMA didn’t want to hear that and staff told me last year that they intended to get rid of the recreational fishing and conservation representation from the process because they were causing public debate and controversy that AFMA did not want,” said Graham Pike, former recreational fishing representative of the Small Pelagic Fishery Resource Assessment Group.
“This new proposal is a watered down version of the former Resource Assessment Group and will be less effective,” said Mr Pike.
“How will recreational fishers have genuine stakeholder engagement when there is a total lack of transparency around the operations of the Geelong Star within Australia’s iconic fishing locations? We need open, transparent engagement with accurate detailed information, not industry protection,” said Nobby Clark of the Tasmanian Game Fish Sports Fishing Club.
“The proposed AFMA process will continue the veil of secrecy behind which the factory freezer trawler Geelong Star is operating, and in no way addresses concerns of fishers, conservationists or tourism groups about the impacts of industrial trawlers”, said Rebecca Hubbard from Environment Tasmania and Coordinator of the Stop the Trawler Alliance.
“AFMA has a history of appalling stakeholder engagement throughout the entire super trawler debacle, but rather than address real issues and find real solutions, they’ve instead decided to close doors. But this attempt to just lock the community out will not work. Tens of thousands of people have taken action across the country against factory trawlers and even Sarah Henderson, a Liberal MP, is organising a rally against the Geelong Star this Saturday in Torquay Victoria,” concluded Ms Hubbard.