COMMENT: Marlin, tuna to be slaughtered by longliners

Feds Rip Us Off – Again

AFMA kept it all pretty quiet. The federal fisheries agency, which lauds itself on its website as being “responsible for the efficient management and sustainable use of Commonwealth fish resources on behalf of the Australian community”, will on January 24 deal a death blow to thousands of Aussie gamefishermen, not to mention all the businesses which rely on the gamefishing dollar, when it approves a new deal to benefit long-liners.

Fisho heard about this yesterday, the day after a Tropical Tuna Management Advisory Committee meeting was held in Sydney.

The upshot is that AFMA looks set to approve an agreement which will result in marlin and tuna stocks off the east coast being massively impacted. Hundreds of thousands of yellowfin, albacore, bigeye, striped marlin and swordfish, plus “protected” blue and black marlin, sharks, dolphin fish, turtles, seabirds and God knows what else will be hanging off long-line hooks in a kill frenzy that’s due to start on March 1 and run right through to the end of February next year.

The deal is what’s called a “Total Allowable Commercial Catch”, or TACC, and is basically a quota system outlining how many fish can be caught by the local commercial fleet. International fisheries pundits tend to agree that quotas are the way to go when trying to develop sustainable commercial fisheries, and they won’t get any argument from me on that. But this new TACC for the Eastern Tuna & Billfish Fishery is a joke. AFMA and its commercial fishing cronies have clearly demonstrated that they aren’t interested in sustainability. Far from it, in fact. The TACCs recommended for yellowfin, bigeye, swordfish, striped marlin and albacore all exceed the limits recommended by government fisheries scientists. The total catch for the above species under the new TACCs will be 9615 tonnes. The amount actually recommended by the scientists is 5951 tonnes. So the long-liners, aided and abetted by their AFMA mates, will be taking 3664 tonnes of fish that the scientists say really aren’t there to take. Let’s put that in perspective. That tonnage works out at 3,650,000 kilos of tuna, or almost 50,000 80-kilo fish. That’s the amount of fish they SHOULDN’T be taking. The entire amount is almost 10,000,000 kilos, or a staggering 125,000 80-kilo fish. (See Quick Facts below for more).

Anyone who’s ever had anything to do with commercial fisheries management won’t be surprised by the extravagance of this haul. The reason the world’s oceans are getting wiped out at a rate of knots is because of dumb and greedy commercial operators who are given every assistance in their quest to kill every fish they can by sympathetic bureaucrats who work in agencies like AFMA. Further up the chain are our elected representatives, in this case the bloke responsible for AFMA, the federal Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig.

Given all we know about the fragility of the marine environment and how the entire world’s fish stocks are in an imminent state of collapse, how the hell can Senator Ludwig countenance allowing his minions at AFMA to even think about letting 125,000 Australian tuna and marlin end up as sushi?

The crazy thing is that Senator Ludwig and his cohorts have only recently been given a wake-up call about the sort of proactive management options they could utilise to maximise the environmental and socio-economic value of our iconic gamefish species. This comes courtesy of the moves taken various South and Central American countries to totally ban long lining. Yep, a tiny country like Panama has the vision to create a world class gamefishing Mecca in its waters that will reap it long-term economic return from fishing tourism as well as boost its biodiversity and environmental credentials. On the other hand, Australia, supposedly an enlightened, modern nation, continues to prop up a small fleet of clapped out long liners by allowing them to destroy our pelagic fish stocks and consign our burgeoning sport and game fishing industries (which are worth vast amounts more to the economy and society) to the dust bin of history.

For what its worth, the GFAA and the NSWGFA have made submissions to AFMA protesting the absurdity of the TACC deal. To its credit, NSW Fisheries has also made noises about the sustainability issues associated with this sort of insane commercial slaughter. AFMA has “noted” these protests, which is bureaucratic speak for telling GFAA, NSWGFA and Fisheries to get stuffed.

All anglers, whether you like game fishing or not, need to unite and let federal Fisheries Minister Ludwig know that this TACC deal isn’t on. We can’t allow this level of destruction to affect our pelagic fish stocks. At a minimum, Minister Ludwig should put a stopper on the TACC process and instigate an investigation into the AFMA decision and why the scientific recommendations are not being adhered to. As a further move, the Minister should investigate the moves by Panama and other nations to completely ban long lining in Australian waters in favour of a sustainable and economically significant gamefishery.

You need to let Minister Ludwig and his parliamentary Secretary Mike Kelly, as well as Environment Minister Tony Bourke and Prime Minister Julia Gillard, know that you don’t agree with the the wholesale slaughter of our marlin and tuna. You need to let our political leaders know that you want action taken on this issue. If enough of us fishos make enough noise, this stupid, wasteful and greedy decision by AFMA can be reversed.

We hope to soon set up an online letter so you can send your protest about this issue directly to Joe Ludwig, Mike Kelly, Tony Burke and Julia Gillard. In the meantime contact details for the PM and ministers involved are listed below.

Hon. Julia Gillard,
Prime Minister
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Tel: (02) 6277 7700
Fax: (02) 6273 4100

Tony Burke MP
Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
PO Box 6022
Parliament House
Phone: (02) 6277 7640
Fax: (02) 6273 4120

Senator Joe Ludwig
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Parliament House
PO Box 6022
Canberra ACT 2600
Phone: (02) 6277 7520
Fax: (02) 6273 4541

For more on the issues associated with long lining, check out Environment Editor John Newbery’s comment piece HERE and the reports on the Panamanian long line ban HERE.

Quick Facts: Red tape behind the slaughter
Commercial fishing in Australian waters is managed by a vast bureaucracy. Here’s some detail on how it all works:

  • The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is the Canberra-based authority that controls commercial fishing in Commonwealth waters – ie, waters three miles from shore out to our 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
  • The Tropical Tuna Management Advisory Committee (TTMAC) is a group made up largely of commercial fishing interests which, together with AFMA, advises the federal Fisheries Minister on issues relating to the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF).
  • The ETBF is this year set to come under a series of Total Allowable Commercial Catches (TACCs) which are quotas governing how many fish can be caught. These TACCs are seen by many fisheries as being a good way to manage commercial fishing as they are supposed to limit how many fish are taken.
  • These limits come mainly in the form of Recommended Biological Commercial Catches (RBCCs), which are provided by government fisheries scientists based on science relating to the sustainability of fish stocks.

In this case, AFMA and the TTMAC have completely ignored the RBBCCs relating to yellowfin, bigeye, swordfish, striped marlin and albacore and set much higher catch rates.
According to AFMA documents obtained by Fisho, the scientist on the TTMAC has requested that at least two of the TACCs be reconsidered. This request was denied, which sort of makes the whole idea of scientifically managing the fishery a bit of a joke, don’t you think?

Check out for details on the AFMA process relating to yellowfin, bigeye, striped marlin, swordfish and albacore.

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