Supertrawler negotiations kick off in Canberra

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TALKS this week in Canberra between Seafish Tasmania representatives, government and recreational fishing groups have been described as positive by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Senator Anne Ruston, assistant Minister for the department, has thanked both sides and praised their commitment to getting mutually beneficial outcomes.

“While both parties acknowledged that there are difficult issues to work through, both gave their commitment to work together to find ways to co-exist around this shared resource,” Ruston said.

One thing that everyone agreed on was that, for now at least, everyone is talking and that’s positive.

“Looking to the future, today’s meeting provided the opportunity for both parties to have a better understanding of the issues and concerns of each group, laying a strong foundation for future co-operation,” Ruston said.

Well known fishing identities Lee Rayner and Al McGlashan, and the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF), who were representing recreational fishermen at the talks, all agreed that there were issues from both sides that the other side were unaware of.

“Talks with the commercial fishing representatives on the operations of the Geelong Star were constructive. They progressed our understanding of the fishery but were also challenging. The true nature of the challenge of achieving an outcome where the vessel will avoid key recreational fishing areas, particularly over the busy summer holiday period is now clearer,” Allan Hansard, managing director of ARFF said.

“It is the objective of the ARFF to be constructive in the process and we tabled a map of ‘areas of concern’ and advised that fishing operations in the ‘areas of concern’, particularly those on the south east coast of Australia would have a high probability of interaction with recreational fishers over the summer period. We also advised that these areas should not be fished by the Geelong Star to avoid such interactions.”

A voluntary commitment from Seafish Tasmania for the Geelong Star not to fish management zone 7 until the end of April, 2016 was also established and passed off as a huge victory for recreational fishermen.

This however, has been met with indifference, and even anger, amongst rec fishos who believe that zone 7, the area between Barrenjoey head in NSW and Fraser Island in QLD, was never going to be fished anyway at that time of year. The big schools of bait were always going to be on the south coast of NSW from December to April and this is where it appears that game fishermen will get their first close look at the goliath ship as they jostle for position over the bait schools.

Federal liberal member for Paterson (Port Stephens) and well known recreational fisherman Bob Baldwin, hailed this zone 7 commitment as a huge victory for recreational fishermen despite being staunchly opposed to the supertrawler in the past and having to defend his position vigorously yesterday on his Facebook page.

”Finding a long term solution to this complex issue was always going to be challenging and while the talks have given us a far better understanding on some issues, other issues revealed through the talks have added further complexity. However, we have agreed to meet with representatives of the commercial fishing sector early next year where we will be taking the opportunity to explore these issues further,” Hansard concluded.

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