The Stop the Trawler Alliance of conservation and recreational fishing groups today expressed dismay at the Federal Government’s decision to allow the factory freezer trawler the Geelong Star to resume night fishing in the Small Pelagic Fishery, despite no evidence being provided that the vessel can avoid killing more dolphins and seals.
The Geelong Star was banned from night fishing by the Australian Fisheries Management Association (AFMA) and Environment Minister Greg Hunt in May this year, in response to community outrage at dolphin and seal deaths caused by the vessel’s inability to fish at night without harming marine mammals. At the time of implementing the night fishing ban, Minister Hunt described the Geelong Star’simpacts as “unacceptable and outrageous”.
The Geelong Star is fishing with a new, untested barrier net, but because it is not required to use video cameras to prove that it actually reduces the deaths of dolphins and seals, it seems to be little more than a ploy to sweep the unacceptable impacts of this industrial fishing operation under the rug.
"AFMA has not demonstrated that the excluder devices will stop seals and dolphins being drowned and injured," said Jon Bryan of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust.
"The lack of underwater video and other monitoring seems more likely to hide marine mammal deaths rather than ensure that threatened species are being protected. The proposed trigger limit is no use if we don't know what animals are actually being killed."
By allowing the Geelong Star to fish at night, the government is allowing it to catch and kill more dolphins. It's as simple as that,” said Adrian Meder of the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
“Night fishing significantly increases the risk to marine mammals. In the dark, you can’t see if there are dolphins in the area and move the vessel away to fish elsewhere. The Australian community has made it clear that they do not accept dolphin deaths as an acceptable cost of fishing.”
The chair of the Small Pelagic Fishery Resource Assessment Group recentlyresigned, citing serious conflicts of interest in decision-making in the management of the Geelong Star’s operation. In addition this decision to again allow night fishing was made shortly following the disbanding of that group – so not only theGeelong Star’s fishing, but also its management, appears to be happening in the dark.
"More than 10,000 people emailed Environment Minister Greg Hunt specifically calling for him to keep the night ban and protect our dolphins from the killer factory freezer trawler Geelong Star, but his response has been deafening. This return to night fishing is nothing short of a backflip and fails to protect our marine life and fisheries from industrial fishing," said Rebecca Hubbard, of Environment Tasmania.
“These regulations appear to have been relaxed so quickly because the vessel operators complained to the Government that they can’t make any money when they have to fish in a way that reduces dolphin deaths. It is particularly disturbing that the interests of those operators are being put ahead of the concerns of the Australian public,” concluded Ms Hubbard.
“The night fishing ban offered at least some protection from localized depletion, a major concern for our iconic recreational fisheries. This fishery resource is worth too much to our environment, and to our recreational fishing community, to be exploited by industrial factory freezer trawlers. We won’t stop reminding the government of that,” said Nobby Clark, of the Gamefish Tasmania Sports Fishing Club.
“If the new Turnbull Government wants to look after Australia’s marine environment, our recreational fishing community and the reputation of our fishing industry, it will enact a permanent ban on the operation of factory freezer trawlers such as the Geelong Star in the Small Pelagic Fishery,” concluded Mr Clark.