If I sound disheartened and upset in this column please forgive me because regardless of how it is fed to me that’s the only way I can take this news, and those who I have spoke to about it feel the same or worse. You see on the one hand our Government has bowed to Foreign Multinational anti fishing groups to seriously consider putting in place the largest expanse of ‘no recreational fishing zones’ in the world right here in Australia, and at the same time a massive super trawler has been fast tracked to start fishing in Australian waters!
A massive 143 meter long commercial trawler as big as an apartment block plans to target baitfish here in Australia. The vessel the FV Margiris, is 143 meters long, as tall as an apartment block, and has a massive holding capacity of 9500 tonnes. It is a size the likes of which have never been seen in Australia. It has been chased away by other countries and green peace despise the vessel for overfishing and leaving commercial anglers out of jobs, yet its owners have somehow convinced our government to allow it to target our fish all way down here Australia.
The vessel is causing up roar amongst commercial and recreational anglers and many others concerned about our vital bait fish stocks, which form a critical part of our oceans food chain.Greenpeace spokesperson Nathaniel Pelle said the organisation had confronted the Margiris off the coast of Mauritania in March, for its role in what it says is overfishing in the North Sea and South Pacific ''to the point of plunder'' and is responsible for "some of the worst fishing excesses on the planet.'' The vessel has also been responsible for slimy mackerel stocks off Chile plummeting by 90 per cent.
The boat will be based at Devonport but will target slimy mackerel and two other bait fish species across the entire southern half of Australia, the baitfish will be blast frozen and exported. Somehow we are asked to believe it’s only baitfish and a 1% by catch that will be scooped up in the giant nets.
However, Australian unions are supporting the trawler because the majority of crew will be from Tasmania and the Federal Government says vigorous checks will be applied to its catch rate of 18,000 tonnes a year. I’m sorry but this is hard to swallow. Low and behold for our government to play it smart and use our own commercial fleet and finance local processing facilities to harvest smaller sustainable amounts to see the money and fish stay down under. They say they have tried this, I say to our leaders try harder, grants, tax breaks or whatever it takes to keep fish and jobs down under.
People are asking all sorts of questions about this bizarre consideration by the government, including how these super trawlers will be fishing within quota, and how a vessel that can take its whole quota in just two full loads afford to base itself here unless it is up to something else? And are the rumors of illegal fishing and of the boat mincing unwanted species and dropping them out to sea so they can’t be identified true? The questions are coming thick and fast and people want answers.
Meanwhile Australia’s 5 million recreational anglers will be locked out of vast areas of Australian oceans and many iconic fishing spots. Minister Burke’s announcement of the proposed Commonwealth Marine Park Reserve System locks recreational anglers out, without justification. I spoke with Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF) Allan Hansard who said:
“The Government should rethink the plan to ensure ongoing access to Marine Reserves for Australia’s recreational anglers.
“ARFF acknowledges that the Government has tried to minimize the impact of the Marine Park Reserve System on Australia’s recreational anglers by putting reserves out to sea and changing boundaries.
“However, these examples gloss over the underlying problem that the Government is basing the Marine Park Reserve System on an archaic zoning rule that treats Aussie anglers in the same way it treats industrial scale commercial fishing and oil and gas developments.
“In almost all cases, there is no scientific justification and there have been no socioeconomic assessment of the impacts of the proposal.
“Aussie anglers are called the bushwalkers of the sea. We see wrong doings and report them”.
“There is a clear message resonating from Australia’s 5 million recreational anglers, to Government – Don’t Lock Us Out! The Minister can turn this around by reviewing how recreational fishing is classified under the Marine Park zoning rules. We are asking him to do this as a matter of urgency, before he proclaims the Marine Park Reserve System and locks Aussie recreational fishing families out of these areas forever”, said Allan.
As it turns out the brilliant and popular idea of turning green zones into gold zones where specifically regulated recreational fishing activities are allowed has been more or less watered down to zip. So in a disheartening few weeks, responsible and sustainable recreational anglers and our families are being locked out of vast areas, while huge super trawlers are being let in. Make no mistake this is fast becoming a big election issue, but at the end of the day, Aussies and our fish will be the ones affected unless the Politicians go with what’s right rather than what pressure and propaganda is being fed to them.
See you on the water.