Environment: Sustainably shipshape?

AFMA is doing its best in the face of concerted anti-small pelagic fishery campaigning and there is some optimistic news from them on stock rebuilding and subsequent catch quota increases for trawl species, with, of course, sustainability assurances.

Oh, but the company they have to keep, and keep on side. Politicians who think open cut coal mines and coal fired power stations are more attractive than wind turbines, and that coal trains sound better.

Time for a bit of reflection.

One of our readers has donated a January 1982 40th anniversary edition of the Commonwealth’s Australian Fisheries magazine. Fascinating reading. Here’s a selection of summary highlights by year:

1943: The complete disappearance of the Tasmanian kingfish (gemfish) reported on … 60 years earlier it was the main commercial species consumed there.
1947-48: Big plans for the Eden fish cannery released.
1950: Pole fishing for tuna tested in NSW; 6 tons of SBT averaging 30lbs each taken off St George’s Head, Jervis Bay, in 40 minutes; 248,830lbs taken in 70 days.
1952-53: Whaling revived on the East coast after a 40 year lapse; bounty (30/- per skin) paid to NSW inland commercial fishermen for native water rats.
1954-55: Commercial fish production down 10.8% after post-war boom.
1963: End of Australian shore-based whaling predicted.
1967-68: Introduction of Nile perch to tropical inland waters recommended.
1976: SBT commercial boat limits introduced; gemfish the main species sold by NSW Fish Marketing Authority.
1977-78: No trawlers longer than 45.7m to be allowed in south eastern waters; maximum of six between 32 and 45.7m, two each for NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.
1978: Shore based whaling officially finishes (in WA).
1980: Super-seining for skipjack (striped) tuna takes off; worries expressed about Queensland barra becoming “fished out”, threatening commercial fishers livelihoods.
1981: SBTs classed as “fully exploited”, but pole-and-line fishing restriction lifted; “most difficult gemfish season” since fishery developed in the mid-1970s; Eden’s South Coast Fish Processing company abandons processing with Heinz losses of $1.6m; 12 million tonnes of skipjack per year reckoned to be available for catching in central and western Pacific following four year resource assessment … 15 times the then total global catch of skipjack and five times the total catch of all tuna and billfish species.

Well worth reflecting on.

John Newbery is Fishing World’s environment editor.

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