This week it was exposed that yet another foreign factory trawler is being proposed to enter Australian fisheries, again without public consultation. The Australian Government is clearly sending the message that we are open for big-boat business. This is despite the Prime Minister writing to us to say he “does not want to see the super trawler Abel Tasman (Margiris) back in our waters”. But the temporary ban only applies to freezer-factory vessels over 130m long, and there is an international fleet of these industrial trawlers waiting on our doorstep, which although slightly shorter, are equally concerning. Sign the new petition to Prime Minister Abbott for a permanent ban on all large factory freezer trawlers.
Media release – 5 June 2014 – from Greenpeace, Australian Marine Conservation Society and Environment Tasmania
New Factory Trawler Could Slip Into Australia Under Net Of Secrecy
Conservation groups have raised the alarm that more large freezer factory trawlers, including one flying a flag of convenience, could be fishing in Australian waters within weeks without any public consultation and despite significant concerns being raised with the Australian Government (‘Fresh controversy over factory ships in Australian waters’, Age and SMH Online. This follows the 2012 temporary two year ban on super trawlers by the Australian Government.
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has received two applications to fish for blue grenadier (often known as hoki) using overseas-flagged fishing vessels. One of those vessels is believed to be the
Meridian-1, a 104.5m Ukrainian factory freezer trawler chartered by New Zealand fishing giant Sealord that sails under the flag of the Dominican Republic and is registered to an owner in Vanuatu.
The practice of registering vessels in countries unrelated to ownership often occurs to avoid regulations (e.g. governing labour costs) is known as operating under a flag of convenience. Flags of convenience are considered a major global contributor to the prevalence of illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said, “Flags of convenience are used to dodge regulations, mistreat workers, avoid taxes and hide fishing capacity. Greenpeace has called for a ban on flags of convenience as one of the first steps to ending pirate fishing. The 'convenience' in this case refers to the fact that the ’flag’ state is usually one that doesn't care what they catch, how they catch it, how they treat their crew, or the safety standards of the ships."
"There is nothing convenient about ignoring basic rights, environmental regulations or good governance. Australia should apply a strict zero-tolerance policy to these operations,” Mr Pelle said.
In 2012 the Australian Government temporarily banned large factory freezer vessels from operating in an Australian fishery for two years and ordered a review of fishery legislation. One of the key outcomes of the review process was recommending increasing transparency in fisheries management.
Australian Marine Conservation Society campaigner Tooni Mahto said, “Has AFMA not learned the lessons of the super trawler Margiris? The public made it abundantly clear they care about the way Australian fisheries are managed, so trying to slip another big boat through a net of secrecy does no favours to the Australian Government, the Australian fishing industry or the Australian public.”
AFMA are not releasing full details on the applications to introduce overseas flagged vessels into this fishery, such as how much of the blue grenadier quota would be fished by these vessels and where the catch would be landed because of antiquated commercial in confidence issues.
“These commercial in confidence rules unnecessarily restrict access to important information that should be made public. It’s time that AFMA started taking a wide-open door approach to fisheries that the public deserves, rather than the closed-door policy that only serves those with vested financial interests,” said Miss Mahto.
Marine Coordinator of Environment Tasmania Rebecca Hubbard said, “The current temporary ban on super trawlers only applies to freezer-factory vessels over 130m in length, yet there is an international fleet of these industrial trawlers which might be slightly shorter but are equally concerning.”
“The fact that the Australian Government is considering these current applications is sending a message that Australia is open for big-boat business, but without asking the public how they want their fisheries managed. It seems that we not only need a permanent ban on all super trawlers to protect our fisheries and marine life, but we also need a fundamental shift in the Australian Government’s attitudes towards public consultation,” concluded Ms Hubbard.
According to the International Transport Workers federation: Where beneficial ownership and control of a vessel is found to lie elsewhere than in the country of the flag the vessel is flying, the vessel is considered as sailing under a flag of convenience. http://www.itfglobal.org/flags-convenience/
Ukraine is a known source of human trafficking, particularly of seafarers. We have no evidence this is the case for the vessel in question.
The Australian Government published a report in 2005 titled 'How flags of convenience provide cover for illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing' which records Dominica and Vanuatu as Flags of Convenience countries.
Vanuatu was given a yellow card in 2013 by the EU for non-cooperation re IUU.
NZ charter vessels (of which this is an example) have lately been associated with slavery, illegal fishing and deaths at sea.
The vessel has been docked in New Zealand since the 1990’s.