Comment: AFMA provides no answers on pair trawling in the SPF


THE Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has once again slapped recreational fishos in the face by refusing to answer key questions regarding the pair trawling operation that could replace the controversial super trawler.

The recently departed Geelong Star supertrawler – and its predecessor the Abel Tasman – created huge controversy in the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) over several years mainly due to the veil of secrecy maintained over its operations by both industry and government.

With no super trawler currently operating in Australian waters AFMA has received an application from Atlantis Fisheries Consulting Group to fish the SPF using a pair trawling operation, something that is not currently allowed.

Pair trawling involves the use of two boats to shoot and drag a large net through the water to catch schooling slimy mackerel and other species, which will then be sold as aquaculture feed and recreational fishing bait.

The SPF Scientific Panel met with stakeholders on the 24th January however with public submissions closing tomorrow the minutes from that meeting won’t be available before the deadline.

While the application is heavily focused on the differences between pair trawling and factory freezer trawlers like the Geelong Star, it doesn’t answer any of the questions that rec fishos want to know.

Head of the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF), Allan Hansard, was at the stakeholder forum and echoed the same responses from government and industry that Fishing World received.

“The big question is what will the total catch be, and nobody at the meeting could give an answer,” Hansard said.

“Another key question that needs answering is exactly where will the operator be fishing? This is another question that nobody at the meeting could answer. Is it going to spend the entire time at Bermagui?

Hansard also reiterated that there is nothing in place stopping another super trawler returning to Australian waters.

“Potentially AFMA could give the pair trawling trial the green light and the next day we have another super trawler fishing alongside it,” he said.

AFMA dodged questions regarding the viability of the Small Pelagic Fishery and directed Fishing World’s questions to the operator.

The operator also, could not provide an answer to how much catch would be required for the operation to be viable.

“Small Australian vessels have single trawled for SPFs and always struggled. This is why two large factory freezer vessels arrived in the last couple of years. If approved and then successful pair trawling with small Australian vessels represents a way forward that might not see a large foreign vessel return,” said spokesperson for Atlantis, Simon Boag.

When Fishing World pressed AFMA again on how much product would need to be harvested for the operation to be viable a spokesperson again couldn’t give an answer only saying, “In terms of how much catch does a fishing operation need to be viable, that depends on the type and scale of fishing operation.”

As it becomes increasingly obvious that huge quantities require harvesting for the Small Pelagic Fishery to be viable it appears that once again rec fishos will be left out in the cold when it comes to decision making from AFMA.

Click here for more information on pair trawling, to view the application or make a submission before the deadline.

More to follow.

(NOTE: AFMA announced on the 01/02/17 an extension for the public submissions period until Friday 10th February 2017)

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