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Australian Vessels to Face Fishing Ban in Tasmania?

23 July 2014

TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA - The Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) is considering a motion from the Break O'Day & Northern Midlands councils to lobby the Australian Government to ban certain types of Australian flagged fishing vessels from Australia waters.

Mr Simon Boag, the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association’s Executive Officer commented that: “The Association is appalled that local governments in Tasmania would even consider such a motion.

“What makes this so ridiculous is that one of the protagonists, Northern Midland Council, is landlocked. Neither council has any expertise in fisheries management or any marine science capability whatsoever. The two councils have proposed this motion based on a one page briefing note that does not make a single mention of science, the state of Australian or Tasmanian fisheries or the size of the catch of any fish stock. The document is not even clear on the type of vessel facing the ban.”

“Perversely, on its own website Break O’Day council lists fishing as a principle industry in the area. This motion has no regard for the rights of fishermen to fish, their investment or the businesses that rely on them”.

The Commonwealth Fisheries Association (CFA) also said it is opposed to the banning of any authorised boat, whether it is big or small, as it severely diminishes the rights of the fishing operators to catch the fish that is allocated to them, under rigorous scientific analysis and Governmental regulation.

The reality of the Australian commercial fishery is very different:

  • Australian fisheries are actually some of the best managed in the world. A recent study by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) compiled by 80 scientists over 18 months reviewed 150 fish stocks that comprise 70 per cent of the volume and 80 per cent of the value of Australia’s fishery production. It found that only two of the 150 stocks were overfished. Neither of these overfished stocks are caught by the type of vessel facing the ban.

  • CSIRO has recently completed a survey into the stocks of orange roughy off eastern Tasmania and found 21,000 to 48,000 tonnes of roughy aggregating on just two hills. CSIRO conducted this research from within Tasmania. This Tasmanian technology has now been exported to New Zealand and is now central to their fisheries management. The recovery of Australia’s roughy stocks is a credit to Australian fisheries science and management most of which occurs in Tasmania. Tasmanian councils should be celebrating this but today’s motion casts a shadow over whether the fishing industry would risk coming into a port controlled by Break O’Day Council (who at least have some coastline).

  • The South East Trawl Fishery operates in the waters around Tasmania. The fleet operates around the largest deepwater marine protected area network in the Word. Most of these marine parks are centered around Tasmania. In total, 87 per cent of the fishery is closed to trawling.

Sustainable quotas for deepwater fisheries in south east Australia are set based on science each year during forums that occur in Tasmania. Both the recreational sector and conservation sector are represented in this process.

Mr Boag added: “The Association urges the remaining 27 Tasmanian councils to leave fisheries management to the experts and enjoy the commercial benefits of an industry that is increasingly recognised for its sustainability. Landing fish from sustainable Australian fisheries is expensive because of the management and science costs required. Landing fish into Tasmania is expensive due to the freight rates and fuel prices in Tasmania. If this motion is somehow successful, fishermen may feel unwelcome enough to steam back to the Australian mainland and not land in Tasmania.”

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