Super Trawler saga continues: Now it’s the super freezer!

THE arrival last year of a massive foreign-owned super trawler wanting to decimate baitfish stocks around most of the southern half of the continent caused considerable controversy, with angry anglers pressuring the federal Government to ban the huge industrial fishing vessel.

The campaign was a success, with federal Environment Minister Tony Burke forced to act after protests by thousands of fishos. But Seafish Tasmania, the company behind the super trawler venture, hasn’t given up. Fisho understands the company now wishes to use the 142m vessel as a floating freezer so that a fleet of trawlers can feed it with baitfish. The vessel is able to process and freeze thousands of tonnes of fish per day.

Traditionally, the fishery operated by having trawlers come back to port each day to offload their catch of redbait and blue mackerel – both important baitfish for key recreational species such as southern bluefin tuna, marlin, yellowfin tuna and sharks. The fish are also a vital food source for seals, dolphins and other marine mammals.

Seafish Tasmania plans to sell these fish to African nations for about $1 a kilo. In previous years fleets of foreign super trawlers ravaged the African fisheries, thus making them unviable for local fishermen and causing food supply issues.

Anglers and environment groups have questioned the rationale around letting a super trawler responsible for wiping out the African fisheries catch Australian fish to sell to African people who could easily feed themselves if the super trawlers hadn’t caught all their fish!
This latest bid by Seafish Tasmania has been strongly questioned by angling leaders.
“We need to understand more about this proposal. Having a fleet of smaller boats supply the super trawler continuously with baitfish may causes the same sort of concerns that we had with the supertrawler – localised depletion,” Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation CEO Allan Hansard said.

“In fact, it could even be worse as you’ll have numerous trawlers all fishing a specific area and bring their catch back to the ‘super freezer’ for processing.

“Our position on this is the same as for the supertrawler, we want to see the science on the stock and movement of the SPF before any decision on how it is fished is made.”

Fisho understands the Australian Fisheries Management Authority is currently assessing the super freezer proposal. In Fisho’s opinion, the federal Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig needs to take control of this situation and purchase Seafish Tasmania’s “small pelagic fishery” quota. Further, Fisho takes the stance that industrial fishing is not an option in Australian waters – we’ve all seen what it’s done to fisheries in other parts of the world. It’s just not sustainable, no matter how allegedly “well managed” it is. Surely no one apart from those who stand to profit from this venture and maybe a few old school fisheries scientists and managers who believe in the “fish it hard” philosophy, would want super trawlers/super freezers working our waters?

And how in all honesty can the federal Government allow this sort of intensive exploitation occur when it is currently planning on banning recreational fishers from 1.3 million square kilometres of Australian waters as part of its marine parks plans? Doesn’t the Government realise how hypocritical it would be to allow a factory freezer to process thousands of tonnes of baitfish while at the same time banning mums, dads and kids from wetting a line?

Stay tuned for further updates!

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