Fishing regulator re-affirms management is watertight
Last updated 26 July 2012
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has moved to reassure those concerned about the possible entry of the FV Margiris to fish in Australian waters, explaining that its robust management of fisheries will ensure that any fishing is sustainable.
As an independent government regulator, AFMA takes advice fromAustralia’s and the world’s best scientists to set sustainable catch limits. These catch limits are strictly enforced by AFMA using high tech systems to support compliance officers working both at sea and in ports. Australia’s fisheries management is consistently ranked among the world’s best in independent reports by international experts.
Independent scientific experts commenting on the FV Margiris proposal have all supported AFMA’s sound fisheries management arrangements and the science that these decisions are based on.
For example, Dr Bob Kearney, Emeritus Professor in Fisheries Management at theUniversityofCanberraand Professor Colin Buxton Director of Fisheries atTasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies have clearly supported AFMA’s position that the fishery is managed in a sustainable and precautionary way based on the best available science.
In the Small Pelagic Fishery, where the FV Margiris is proposed to operate, fish stocks are in excellent shape, as shown in the latest Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences report on fishery status. Total catch limits are less than 10 per cent of the fish stock, which is far more stringent than internationally accepted standards for sustainable fishing of these species.
AFMA has found no evidence that larger boats pose a higher risk to either commercial species or broader marine ecosystem when total catches are limited and the limits are enforced.
AFMA CEO Dr James Findlay said that, in contrast to the trawlers that most Australians are more familiar with, the FV Margiris is a mid-water trawler and mid-water trawl nets rarely, if ever, touch the sea floor and unwanted bycatch of non-target species is exceptionally low.
“The type of fishing done by the FV Margiris is highly selective. These mid-water trawlers use sophisticated electronic equipment and techniques to ensure that they catch the target species and very little else”, Dr Findlay said.
In addition, AFMA has strict rules in place to prevent accidental capture of seals or dolphins and AFMA will have observers onboard to make sure the rules are being followed and bycatch is minimal.
“I can understand that some people might be worried that a large boat could take large catches from local inshore waters, however this boat is not allowed to fish in any waters less than 3 nautical miles from shore and unlike smaller fishing boats that are limited to fishing close to their ports, larger boats such as the FV Margiris are able to spread their fishing effort out over a much wider area”, Dr Findlay said.
AFMA has received criticism from those unfamiliar with fisheries science for using ‘old’ data in setting the catch limits for some species, however, in accordance with best-practice management these catch limits take into account the age of the data by reducing the catch limits to well below the level that the data would otherwise say is sustainable.
A partial application for Australian registration of the FV Margiris has been lodged with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and will be assessed under the Shipping Registration Act when complete.
If the boat is reflagged as Australian by AMSA, operator SeafishTasmaniawould then need to apply to AFMA to nominate the boat to their existing fishing licence. AFMA will ensure that the boat complies with all regulations, including being able to safely carry an AFMA observer and having an AFMA-approved GPS-based satellite tracking system installed, before accepting the nomination. AFMA’s consideration of the nomination will be the same as it would for any other Australian-flagged boat and it is illegal under Australian federal law to discriminate against any boat.
Further facts can be found on AFMA’s webpage created specifically to answer frequently asked questions at http://www.afma.gov.au/2012/06/super-trawler-faqs/.
Contact Sophie Dening, AFMA Communications (02) 6225 5541 (W) or 0447 942 840 (M)
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