Tighter restrictions on Geelong Star

TRAWLERS targeting the Small Pelagic Fishery, including the Geelong Star, will only be allowed to fish during daytime hours as part of more restrictive measures put in place by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).

The night time fishing ban will apply to mid-water trawl vessels fishing in the SPF.

As further protection and to provide incentive for operators to make operational changes to reduce risks, six month fishing bans will be imposed in management zones if any dolphin mortalities occur in the relevant zone. The additional measures are in response to further dolphin and fur seal mortalities on the Geelong Star’s second fishing trip in the fishery.

“AFMA is extremely disappointed that these additional dolphin and seal mortalities have occurred,” AFMA’s CEO Dr James Findlay said.

“Eight dolphin deaths in two trips are unacceptable.

“AFMA stated earlier this week that the Geelong Star will not be allowed to return to fishing in the SPF until AFMA is satisfied that all reasonable steps are in place to minimise further marine mammal mortalities.

“We have said all along that the vessel management plan was a live document and we would be adaptive and responsive to ensure that all reasonable measures are in place to minimise harm to marine mammals.

“We’ve shown our ability to do this in other fisheries with great success and recognition from marine mammal experts.”

AFMA says as the Geelong Star has had no dolphin mortalities during daytime fishing, consequently, a night time fishing ban is a mandatory requirement of the vessel’s operations in in the SPF for the foreseeable future.

In addition to the night time fishing ban, any dolphin mortality will result in the closure of the respective fishing zone, the smallest of which is more than four times the size of Tasmania, for six months.

Before its third fishing trip, AFMA is also requiring Seafish Tasmania to have electronic monitoring (e-monitoring) installed on the Geelong Star. E-monitoring uses tamper proof cameras to monitor fishing activity. In addition to e-monitoring, two AFMA officers will remain on board to closely observe the vessel’s operations.

AFMA also understands that the Geelong Star will be trialling additional measures to improve its current marine mammal excluder devices.

“AFMA has made it very clear to Seafish Tasmania what our expectations are if operations are to continue in the fishery,” Dr Findlay said.

“I encourage Seafish Tasmania to work with both Australian and international marine mammal experts to ensure that every possible effort is made to stay within the restrictive fishing conditions AFMA is putting in place.

“Unfortunately all fishing poses risks that can sometimes lead to the unintentional harm to marine mammals.

“However, AFMA is determined to ensure that all reasonable measures are in place to minimise any further marine mammal mortalities.”

AFMA’s strict new measures for the fishing conditions are expected to be finalised by the end of the week and there will be no fishing until the vessel is compliant with the strict new measures.

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