PM urged to take caution on removing Geelong Star ban

THE Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF) is calling on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to display caution in allowing the removal of the ban on the Geelong Star from fishing at night. The foreign owned factory trawler was banned by fisheries authorities from fishing at night after it killed eight dolphins on its first two trips to sea.

Allan Hansard managing director of ARFF said: “It is understood that the Abbott Government has come under heavy pressure from the powerful commercial fishing lobby and is now considering lifting the ban on night fishing. It is also understood that a select meeting of scientists was convened by the Government to justify the lifting of the ban by coming up with an allowable number of dolphins that can be killed before any further regulations are enforced.”

“However, lifting the ban will increase the probability of further dolphin interactions from the fishing activities of the Geelong Star and could increase the probability of localised depletion of fish stocks in particular areas. Government needs to consider whether these are risks worth taking.

“Careful consideration is required about the implications of removing any of the measures established to protect our marine environment. This includes the night fishing ban and the dolphin mortality trip limits and zoning regulations applying to the fishery.

“We are also extremely concerned that the Prime Minister and his Government seem to be favouring a foreign industrial fishing operation potentially at the expense of the Australian’s recreational fishers and the hundreds of coastal communities that support them.

The recent disbanding of the Resource Assessment Group on the Small Pelagic Fishery by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, has removed the voice the recreational fishers had on resource issues related to this fishery even though the harvest of these important baitfish may have a significant effect on recreational fishing opportunities, as well as coastal communities and businesses.

Hansard explained that frustration is growing among recreational fishers “Our calls for meetings between the Government, AFMA and the managers of the Geelong Star about where and when the vessel should be able fish have not been answered.

“Come summer there will be a lot of very unhappy families, businesses and local communities around the Australian coastline if the Geelong Star is allowed to adversely impact on their recreational fishing, business and tourism opportunities. Surely the business interests of this foreign owned factory trawler should not be put before the interests of millions of Australian recreational fishers and hundreds of local businesses and communities.

“Australia’s recreational fishing community asks that the Prime Minister shows leadership and orders immediate talks between the Government, AFMA, the vessel operators and recreational fishers so that the recreational fishing community can have a genuine say in how this fishery is managed and where and when the Geelong Star can fish”.

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