A stakeholder forum heard yesterday that the newly appointed scientific panel for the controversial Small Pelagic Fishery in which the super trawler Geelong Star operates, is recommending an increase in the total catch despite ongoing concerns from recreational fishers and conservationists that it will cause localised depletion, impact on protected species, and the operations are shrouded in secrecy.
“The super trawler Geelong Star is a massive industrial factory trawler operating in one of Australia’s most ecologically and socially important fisheries, and yet instead of listening to community concerns AFMA have further reduced stakeholders input into critical decision-making processes. A newly appointed scientific panel is now proposing to increase the total catch from 42,000 tonnes to over 49,000 tonnes,” said Rebecca Hubbard of Environment Tasmania.
“Serious concerns about localised depletion of target fishing areas and impacts on protected species like dolphins from night fishing operations have not been addressed, and yet they are already recommending increases in catch by the super trawler,” said Jon Bryan, Tasmania Conservation Trust.
“Since the debacle of the super trawler Margiris, AFMA promised greater transparency in their management of this fishery yet they have continued to create deceptions. To demonstrate this point, AFMA have long been saying the super trawler will operate in the whole Small Pelagic Fishery that stretches across the country in two huge east and west zones. This, they said was the way localised depletion would be managed, but in fact they have pulled the wool over our eyes,” said John Edwards, President of the Tasmanian GameFishing Association.
“AFMA have now disclosed that the zones within which the Geelong Star can actually fish is in fact probably 80% smaller than they had us believing, and that iconic recreational fishing areas will be the super trawlers focus. This has already been demonstrated by the super trawler fishing off Bermagui during the peak game fishing season,” concluded Mr Edwards.
“AFMA’s unbelievably poor stakeholder engagement continues to stoke the fires of super trawler opposition from recreational fishers, conservation groups and coastal communities who are sick of the secrecy and industry protection in the Small Pelagic Fishery. Our tourism industries, fishing and marine life remain at risk in regional areas like the NSW south coast and Tasmania’s north-east, until all super trawlers are banned from this fishery,” concluded Ms Hubbard.