Australia has a reputation as a supplier of safe, environmentally sustainable, high-quality seafood. The Coalition wants to see the industry remain strong and sustainable, that is why Commonwealth fisheries management practices follow or exceed internationally recognised best practice.
The Coalition recognises the concerns of some in the community about the size of vessels operating in our fisheries. One part of the discussion that has been missing is that regardless of the size of the vessel, all boats operating in Commonwealth fisheries, including the Small Pelagic Fishery, are subject to stringent Australian laws and rules. These laws and rules apply to conserve our natural resources and to make sure fish stocks are harvested sustainably to ensure Australians have access to sustainably fished seafood in the future. The total catch in the Small Pelagic Fishery is controlled by strict quotas which are based on the best scientific research available.
We are committed to maintaining a balanced and science-based approach to all decisions regarding access to Commonwealth fisheries. The CSIRO, the Department of Environment, the independent regulator for fisheries, Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), the Fisheries Research Development Corporation, the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies/University of Tasmania and the South Australian Research and Development Institute have all assessed the Small Pelagic Fishery as being sustainable.
Any mid-water trawler operating in the Small Pelagic Fishery must have a vessel management plan (VMP) approved by AFMA before it can start fishing. A VMP is tailored by AFMA to each vessel’s operations and equipment. Specific measures in the Geelong Star’s VMP include the compulsory use of equipment designed to help marine mammals escape the net and zone based catch limits to reduce the risk of localised depletion. Additionally, there is an on-board observer to conduct scientific sampling, monitor catch limits and interactions with protected species. Any new information which becomes available about the fishing method and interactions with marine mammals can result in the VMP being updated. Full details of the Geelong Star’s VMP can be found on the AFMA website at afma.gov.au. The operator of the Geelong Star, Seafish Tasmania, is taking additional measures to minimise marine mammal interactions such as implementing a range of safe setting and hauling procedures.
AFMA continues to monitor the location of the vessel using a global positioning system (GPS) and as with all mid-water trawl vessels in the Small Pelagic Fishery electronic monitoring including the use of on board cameras are used to monitor fishing activity. The vessel is one of the most heavily regulated and closely monitored vessels currently fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone.
The Coalition recognises the importance of protecting key species, including seals, dolphins and seabirds and all Commonwealth fisheries undergo regular environmental impact assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. That Act also requires all fishing operators to take all reasonable steps to ensure protected species are not killed, injured or harmed during fishing operations.
The Coalition takes seriously its responsibility to protect the environment, and to sustainably manage fisheries for the enjoyment of all Australians into the future. This is why the Coalition places significant emphasis on scientific research, has a strong legislative and policy framework for managing fisheries and to ensure compliance, has an independent regulator.
On a local level in Gippsland, we have a world-class sustainable fishery and I regularly meet with industry representatives to listen to their concerns and plans for the future.