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The Super Trawler Proposal
Seafish Tasmania (an Australian fishing company) is proposing a joint venture with the Dutch owners of the giant freezer trawler FV Margiris, to bring this factory ship into Australian waters to fish for small pelagic fish. The Margiris is 142m long, weighs 9499 tonnes, can process over 250 tonnes of fish a day, and has a cargo capacity of 6,200 tonnes 1. Seafish Tasmania wants to bring this super trawler to Devonport, Tasmania and use it to catch over 18,000 tonnes of small pelagic fish (blue mackerel, jack mackerel and redbait) off the coast of Australia. It would employ approximately 40 people, at least 15 of whom are likely to be from overseas. There is no formal requirement that any of the crew have to be Australian for this ship to operate in Australian waters.
What is the impact on our oceans and marine life?
1. Localised depletion This ship will concentrate the catch of small pelagic species due to its large capacity. There are no restrictions on where this ship can operate in the small pelagic fishery, and fuel costs alone are likely to concentrate effort around Tasmania until local stocks are depleted and the ship is forced to move to other areas. It is believed that localised depletions have already occurred around Tasmania. Large surface schools of jack mackerel were once common off Tasmania until they were targeted by trawlers more than 20 years ago. These surface schools soon disappeared and have not been seen since. Data on the size and age of these fish populations indicate fishing had an impact on these fish2. Over the last decade or so the Tasmanian mid-water trawl fishery for redbait developed, then failed when these fish could no longer be found. Industry claimed that this was due to warmer surface waters rather than overfishing, but no evidence has been produced to support that claim and overfishing and localised depletion may have occurred. It is important to note that there is currently no Government (Australian Fisheries Management Authority) or industry strategy to deal with the problem of localised depletions. There is currently no way to estimate how long it will take for small pelagic fish to repopulate local areas once fish have been removed by this fishery. 2. Key species in the Food chain Redbait, jack mackerel and blue mackerel are important species in the food chain. Sometimes referred to as baitfish, they are food for a wide range of predator species, including bottlenose dolphins, Australian fur seals and other marine mammals, sea birds, and larger fish such as southern bluefin tuna and sharks. The impacts on the entire marine ecosystem are of serious concern. There is currently little science available to allow an assessment of the ecosystem impacts of taking this quantity of pelagic fish from around Tasmania. 3. By-catch Super trawlers threaten fish and other marine life, such as dolphins, seals and seabirds that they are not “targeting” because they simply have such huge nets. There are some systems in place to minimise this,
such as Seal Exclusion Devices and independent observers on board. The Seal Exclusion Devices have not been shown to be effective on the gear that this ship will use and we do not know if they will actually protect seals and dolphins or just dispose of dead animals before they are brought to the surface. Lanternfish are another small and important species of fish in the food chain. Due to their size they usually slip through the trawl nets without being captured; however, they are incredibly sensitive fish and can be killed from a touch, yet there has been no assessment of these mortalities or ecosystem impacts. Claims that there will be 100% observer coverage on the Margiris are of only minor consolation and to a certain extent misleading. We expect that this ship will be undertaking fishing and/or processing operations for extended periods of time, and at times may be working continuously for periods of 24 hours or more. For observer coverage to be effective, and for this coverage to actually be 100%, there would need to be at least three observers on the ship who could then work 8 hour shifts. We have been informed that the company is only planning to have a single observer on this ship, so it seems unlikely that 100% observer coverage would be possible. Observers in any case are only able to report on the outcomes of fishing operations. While they contribute to compliance, they cannot prevent environmental damage from occurring. If some form of video/e-monitoring was to be used to lighten the load on the observer/s, there would need to be funding to support the analysis of this data. There has been no commitment by the company to fund this work, and it appears that AFMA is no position to do this analysis. 4. Stock assessments and fisheries management issues Stock assessments are based on just one or two years of sampling and are too old to ensure an accurate estimate of fish numbers or how the populations of these fish change over time. Blue mackerel were last surveyed in 2004, redbait were surveyed in 2005 and 2006 and data for jack mackerel comes from 20033. Due to the poor track record of small pelagic fisheries around the world 4and the failure of two small pelagic fisheries in the Tasmanian regions where large quantities have been taken and local depletion appears to have occurred, it is a matter of urgency for these assessments to be updated, so that we can be sure that the quota will not risk the population or broader marine ecosystem. During the development of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy, regular Daily Egg Production Method (DEPM) stock assessments were included as a necessary way of assessing population health and supported by conservation representatives. However, this was removed by AFMA at the last minute. 5 Industry has made commitments to DEPM stock assessments in the past and has repeatedly walked away from them. Seafish Tasmania has said they will support DEPM assessments of jack mackerel and redbait in October (two months after they propose to start fishing) and to repeat them biannually thereafter. However, they will not agree to this being included in the conditions of their quota.
The Small Pelagic Fishery
Seafish Tasmania has been allocated a quota of around 18,000 tonnes of jack mackerel, blue mackerel and redbait for the coming year, to be taken equally from the west and east zones of southern Australia (west including west coast of Tasmania to Western Australia, and east including east coast of Tasmania up to New South Wales). Jack mackerel quota was doubled this year on the basis of old data from 2003 that was not even collected for this type of assessment, and may not provide an accurate assessment of current fish stocks.
Woodhams, J,Stobutzki, I, Viera, S, Curtotti, R & Begg, GA (eds) (2011) Fishery Status Reports 2010: status of fish stocks and fisheries managed by the Australian Government, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra
Beverton, R. J. 1990. Small Marine Pelagic Fish and the Threat of Fishing: are they Endangered? Jour. Fish. Biol. 37: 5-16. Around the world, many small pelagic fish stocks have collapsed due to overfishing, including: Atlantic Herring, Icelandic Spring Herring, SE Atlantic Pilchard, Peruvian Anchovette, Capelin, Pacific Mackerel and Pacific Sardine.
Concerns remain with the quota allowed for these species because the stock assessments are old, and regular stock assessments using the Daily Egg Production Method (DEPM) are not required to ensure that they are not being overfished on a regular basis under the Tier 2 level of exploitation6. If the super trawler catches its Australian quota in six months, it might then go into neighbouring international waters where its fishing activities will be subject to inadequate and potentially non-existent management.
Tasmanian Company Seafish Tasmania and Feasibility
Seafish Tasmania has been in operation for some years, and formed a joint venture in Tasmania in 2000 to develop the pelagic fishery in southern Australia. They trawled for small pelagics and redbait on and off from 2000 until 2009 when schools disappeared. Seafish Tasmania say that they will need to catch 15,000 tonnes of their newly expanded 18,000 tonne quota to ensure the FV Margiris breaks even. After catching the fish, it will be frozen into 20kg blocks of whole fish and sold to Nigeria for $1/kg. The operation is a joint venture with the Dutch ship owner, Parlevliet & Van Der Plas, who will share the profits and the risk. It is to be expected that a large proportion of running costs and profits will go overseas.
The Global Fishing Disaster Sending Australia Super Trawler Margiris
The ship owner, Parlevliet & Van Der Plas, is a member of the European Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association (PFA), which consists of 34 factory trawlers that are among the biggest and most powerful in the world. The PFA and its member trawlers, such as the FV Margiris, receive European taxpayer funds to subsidise their fishing of international waters. The EU paid an estimated €142.7 million to secure fishing rights for PFA vessels in Mauritanian and Moroccan waters between 2006- 2012. EU taxpayers pay more than 90% of the access costs to allow these companies to fish7. These European companies have recently been in the media due to their involvement in the South Pacific Mackerel Fishery which has failed with the fish stock collapsing to less than 10% of original estimates8. The United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation concluded in 1998 that global fishing capacity was 2.5 times greater than global fish stocks could sustain; since then capacity has increased 9. The UN and World Bank have assessed that overcapacity and overfishing are costing the global economy US$50billion annually. Principles established in the UN FAO code of conduct for responsible fisheries, to which Australia is a signatory, direct states to take steps to reduce overcapacity and avoid management actions that contribute to overcapacity10. These principles were reaffirmed by Prime Minister Gillard this month in Rio along with a commitment to work towards cuts to fishing subsidies11. Subsidies that expand fishing capacity, including for vessel construction and modernisation and operating costs (particularly fuel), are estimated to total about $16 billion globally each year. This represents close to 20 percent of the total value of marine catch. By making it profitable to fish when stocks are in decline, subsidies offset the economic incentive to fishing operators that would otherwise exit the industry.
http://www.daff.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/397264/HSP-and-Guidelines.pdf http://www.greenpeace.nl/Global/nederland/2012/publicaties/Ocean%20Inquirer_3.pdf http://www.iwatchnews.org/2012/01/25/7900/free-all-decimates-fish-stocks-southern-pacific . http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/006/Y4849E/y4849e0l.htm http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/v9878e/v9878e00.HTM ‘UN FAO code of conduct for responsible fisheries’ https://rio20.un.org/rio20/records/page
Distorting incentives undermines the quality of stewardship even in well-managed and privatised fisheries.12 As recently as March this year, FV Margiris has been fishing in West Africa, off Mauritania and Morocco, where most of the targeted fish stocks are considered fully-exploited or over-exploited and local fishermen find it increasingly hard to find fish, having to go further for longer to get their catch 7. On 14 December 2011, the Margiris, along with other EU trawlers, was ordered out of occupied Western Sahara waters after the fishing agreement they were fishing under was voted down by the European parliament following advice that they were breaching international law.13 Ironically, mackerel and redbait caught in Australian waters by the super trawler Margiris will be sold to Africa. For more information on the PFA and the European fleet in West Africa see: http://www.greenpeace.nl/Global/nederland/2012/publicaties/Ocean%20Inquirer_3.pdf
UNFAO Status of world fisheries report 2011 – Key facts
A declining trend – we are beyond peak fish: “Marine fisheries have experienced different development stages, increasing from 16.7 million tonnes in 1950 to a peak of 87.7 million tonnes in 1996, and then declining to stabilize at about 80 million tonnes, with interannual fluctuations. Global recorded production was 79.5 million tonnes in 2009.” No room for expansion: “Of the fish stocks assessed, 57.4 percent were estimated to be fully exploited in 2009. These stocks produced catches that were already at or very close to their maximum sustainable production. Among the remaining stocks, 29.9 percent were overexploited, and 12.7 percent non-fully exploited in 2009.” “There has been a slow but apparently ongoing increase in the proportion of overexploited stocks and a decreasing percentage of non-fully exploited stocks, while the number of fully exploited stocks has increased slightly.” Top ten species (as compared to number of stocks): “For the top ten pelagic species, 30 percent of stocks were estimated to be overfished in 2009, which is higher than the 20 percent for all pelagics (Figure A13). In contrast, the top ten demersal species had 43 percent of their stocks overfished, similar to the average for all demersal species.” 14 Political engagement The following eight state, national and international organisations wrote to Federal Minister for Fisheries Joe Ludwig on July 4 2012, outlining these issues and requesting an urgent meeting: Environment Tasmania, Tasmanian Conservation Trust, Greenpeace, Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Marine Conservation Society, The Wilderness Society, Humane Society International, Conservation Council of Western Australia, and Ocean Planet Tasmania For more information: Tasmanian Conservation Trust – Jon Bryan – firstname.lastname@example.org - 0428 303 116 Environment Tasmania – Rebecca Hubbard – email@example.com - 0401 854 912 Greenpeace - www.greenpeace.org.au – 1800 815 151
http://www.wto.org/english/res_e/publications_e/wtr10_forum_e/wtr10_22june10_e.htm http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/10/fishing-western-sahara-european-commission http://www.fao.org/fishery/sofia/en
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