The Dutch-owned supertrawler the Margiris will be free to fish Australian waters for bait fish.
The Dutch-owned supertrawler the Margiris will be free to fish Australian waters for bait fish. Greenpeace

Super trawler's right to fish

THE approval process is underway to grant a fishing permit to a Dutch-owned super trawler to fish Australian waters.

The FV Margiris, which is currently headed to Tasmania, plans to net bait fish to be sold through fish markets in Asia and Africa.   

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority has moved to put concerns at rest, explaining robust management of fisheries will ensure that any fishing is sustainable.

"As an independent government regulator, AFMA takes advice from Australia's and the world's best scientists to set sustainable catch limits," the authority stated.  

"These catch limits are strictly enforced by AFMA using hi-tech systems to support compliance officers working both at sea and in ports.

"Australia's fisheries management is consistently ranked among the world's best in independent reports by international experts."

Independent scientific experts Dr Bob Kearney from the University of Canberra and Professor Colin Buxton at Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies have supported the FV Margiris proposal.

"In the Small Pelagic Fishery, where the FV Margiris is proposed to operate, fish stocks are in excellent shape, as shown in the latest Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences report on fishery status, AFMA CEO Dr James Findlay said.

"Total catch limits are less than 10% of the fish stock, which is far more stringent than internationally accepted standards for sustainable fishing of these species.

AFMA has found no evidence that larger boats pose a higher risk to either commercial species or broader marine ecosystem when total catches are limited and the limits are enforced.

He said in contrast to the trawlers most Australians are familiar with the FV Margiris is a mid-water trawler and mid-water trawl nets rarely, if ever, touch the sea floor and unwanted bycatch of non-target species is exceptionally low.

"The type of fishing done by the FV Margiris is highly selective," Dr Findlay said.

"These mid-water trawlers use sophisticated electronic equipment and techniques to ensure that they catch the target species and very little else. 

In addition, AFMA has strict rules in place to prevent accidental capture of seals or dolphins and AFMA will have observers onboard to make sure the rules are being followed and bycatch is minimal.

"I can understand that some people might be worried that a large boat could take large catches from local inshore waters, however this boat is not allowed to fish in any waters less than three nautical miles from shore."


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