Supertrawler sparks “localised depletion” fears

THE 95m foreign owned supertrawler known as the Geelong Star could cause “localised depletion” of baitfish stocks if the federal Government allows it access to Australian waters, the ABC reports.

The Geelong Star’s quota has been set at 16,566 tonnes for jack mackerel, redbait and blue mackerel for the 2014-15 fishing season.

Anglers, commercial operators and environment groups have slammed the decision, saying the new ship is capable of decimating local fish stocks.

The Government’s Senator Richard Colbeck, a vocal supporter of the industrial fishing industry, has refuted the concerns and says he is confident the vessel will be operated sustainably. He said the company wishing to exploit the baitfish has addressed the issue of localised depletion.

”I don’t agree that we havent taken that into account,” Colbeck told the ABC.

”In fact one of the reports that we’ve recently released demonstrates we have taken it into account.

“To quote that report it says ‘localised depletion is evaluated as unlikely with the proposed harvesting fractions applied in the SPF because most small pelagics are highly mobile, local areas replenish quickly provided the overalls stocks are not depleted’.

“We’ve been very conservative with our harvest rates.”

However, Fisho understands widespread public opposition to industrial fishing could mean that the imminent arrival of another supertrawler may cause the Government political problems.

“Tony Abbott is in enough strife at the moment as it is. Does he want to go down as the PM who let supertrawlers rape our fisheries as well?” one source in the recreational fishing sector told Fisho today.

Meanwhile, conservation group Environment Tasmania is calling on the Federal Government not to go ahead with final approvals for the Geelong Star.
Environment Tasmania’s marine co-ordinator Rebecca Hubbard told the ABC the Australian community had made it clear they do not want to see industrialisation of the fishery.

Hubbard said she remained unconvinced the management plans would fully protect marine life.

She said the Government had the opportunity to prevent it from fishing Australian waters.

”The Dirk Dirk [former name for Geelong Star] has not been approved to fish in the small pelagic fishery yet.

”It is at the same position the Margiris got to in 2012.

”It’s been reflagged so it could operate in Australian waters, but it hasn’t been applied as the fishing vessel for Seafish’s quota for the small pelagic fishery.

“So the Government still has the opportunity to prevent it from fishing in the small pelagic fishery.”

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