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Australia's Largest Finfish Trawl Fishery Improves its Sustainability

26 October 2015

AUSTRALIA - Seabirds, seals and overfished species like eastern gemfish will be better protected thanks to a new project that aims to minimise the environmental impacts of Australia’s largest finfish trawl fishery.

The four-year project is the result of collaboration between the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA), WWF-Australia and Coles.

It aims to improve the fishing practices of the Commonwealth South East Trawl Fishery - Australia’s largest finfish fishery, stretching from Barrenjoey Point north of Sydney southwards around Tasmania to Cape Jervis in South Australia.

“Voluntary participation in projects like this helps protect our marine wildlife and ecosystems by providing support for operators to tackle environmental challenges,” said WWF-Australia’s Fisheries and Seafood Manager, Jo-Anne McCrea.

“As the largest of its kind in Australia, the South East Trawl Fishery is in a good position to demonstrate how such a significant fishery can further improve its practices.”

Owner of a family fishing business at Lakes Entrance in Victoria, David Guillot, said the project reflected a desire amongst fishermen to find innovative ways to preserve fish stocks and protect marine life.

“This exciting new project reflects a real desire to develop innovative ways to selectively catch fish, to protect our seabirds, and to come up with solutions to environmental problems, so that we can keep fishing well into the future,” Mr Guillot said.

The project is designed to raise the fishery’s operations and management to a level where it is best placed to enter assessment against the highest possible levels of sustainability; the gold standard of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Amongst other activities, the project will focus on rebuilding stocks of at-risk fish species, and improving stock assessment and management measures. For example, the project will develop indicators to detect any targeting of overfished eastern gemfish, which will allow appropriate management and compliance measures to be directed at that activity.

SETFIA’s Executive Officer Simon Boag explained: “Trawl fishermen in the south-east of Australia must have a sustainable fishery. We believe we can accelerate the gains made to date and with Coles and WWF-Australia, we’ve found two partners with the same goals.”

To help deliver the project Coles provided funding for electronic logbooks, so fishermen at sea can efficiently report catch volumes and interactions with fish species, as well as funding for windy buoys, which help protect seabirds by deterring them from interacting with the boats.

“Coles is proud to support our suppliers and Australian fisheries to reach their sustainability goals. We look to partner with organisations that are scientifically credible that our customers can trust. We’re committed to providing responsibly sourced seafood to our customers and that’s why we chose to work alongside WWF-Australia and SETFIA on this project,” stated Jackie Healing, General Manager: Quality, Responsible Sourcing and Product Technology.

As part of the project, SETFIA will develop an innovative TAFE accredited on-line learning program to help Australian fishers identify species at risk, such as sharks and rays, and to learn about the importance of sustainability.

WWF-Australia has worked with Coles since 2011 to improve the sustainability of its seafood supply chain and to educate Australians about responsible seafood choices. With WWF-Australia’s help, Coles reviewed its seafood program and is committed to selling Coles Brand seafood that is either MSC certified, ASC certified or independently assessed to meet robust Coles Brand sourcing requirements.

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