The coalition government’s management of the super-trawler Geelong Star and the small pelagic (deep ocean) fishery is failing to protect the environment and important recreational fisheries. The latest management arrangements may conceal future dolphin and seal deaths and there is no mechanism to prevent localised depletion of fish stocks that is based on scientific evidence. Just when the government needs all the good advice it can get, its fisheries manager, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), has axed the Small Pelagic Resource Assessment Group (SPFRAG), the primary scientific advisory committee for this fishery.
One of the main concerns of opponents of the proposed introduction of the super-trawler into Australia’s small pelagic fishery was the failure to properly manage the risk of localised depletion. Recent developments have not reduced this concern. There is currently not even an agreed definition for localised depletion in Australia’s small pelagic fishery.
I wrote an article for the August 2010 Tasmanian Conservationist about the renewed push to bring a large freezer trawler into Australian waters, and the threats posed by this type of factory ship to fish stocks, other marine life and the marine ecosystem. This industry proposal is now well advanced and appears to have the support from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).
There are indications that elements of the commercial fishing industry are working together to bring a big freezer boat to fish stocks of small pelagic fishes off Australia's southern coastline. This is bad news for marine ecosystems in this part of the world, as well as recreational fishers and other sectors concerned about Australia’s marine ecosystem.