Foreign owned factory freezer vessels – are they in the national interest?

The Federal Government has granted permission for the 95 metre foreign owned factory freezer vessel – the Geelong Star – the largest freezer fishing vessel to fish Australian waters – to fish over the top of some of Australia’s iconic off shore

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Net Avoidance by Recreationally Sought Fish

There has long been a belief in recreational fishing circles that commercial nets spook the fish being targeted by anglers in the regions of net hauls. Such a belief has also existed among net fishers for thousands of years who are well aware that there is little point in netting

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When is one more dolphin death too many?

This was the Question that was posed by the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF), in a press release following the most recent dolphin death associated with Dirk’s (aka Geelong Star) recent fishing trip (link). The Geelong Star now has nine dolphin deaths reported since it

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Talks on Geelong Star collapse – What were the reasons?

Last week the Australia Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF) announced that talks between them and the Small Pelagic Fishery Industry Association (SPFIA) about operations of the Geelong Star had collapsed.

The reasons given by ARFF

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Dirk – son of the Supertrawler. What does it mean for Australia’s recreational fishers?

Access to Australia’s small pelagic fisheries (SPF) has created more controversy than commercial fishing in all of our other fisheries put together. Last month’s arrival of the 95-meter Dirk – Dirk, reflagged as the Geelong Star, into Australian waters has ignited a debate about whether this fishery ought to be fished for commercial purposes at all.

Last December the Government permanently banned vessels over 130 metres from fishing the SPF, after strong campaign from the general public and an independent scientific report to the government.

Dirk, is smaller 95 metre version of the now banned supertrawler Margiris and does not trigger the 130 m ban limit on fishing the SPF. However, it has a quota to fish over 16,000 tonnes of small pelagics a year. That’s more fish than goes through the Sydney Fish Markets each year and rightly classifies it as an industrial scale operation.

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Too Many Commercial Fishers in NSW – Have Recfishers Been Dudded?

Leading up to the NSW Election a number of full-page ads in metropolitan and regional papers started a public debate about the balance between commercial fishing and recreational fishing, tourism and regional development in NSW. The ads called for political leaders to ban commercial fishing in the Hawkesbury and Tuggerah lakes.

The ads were followed by a press release by the Australian Fishing Trade Association (AFTA), the peak national body representing the suppliers of goods and services to NSW’s 750,000 recreational fishers, that also called for a rebalance between commercial fishing and recreational fishing in the State.

So what’s going on here?

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Marine Park Review – Are the Lock Outs back?

Many of you will recall the campaign held by Keep Australia Fishing prior to last election to stop the disastrous Commonwealth Marine Park policy to lock recreational fisher out of 1.3 million square kilometres of Australia seas. But are we now facing potential lockouts?

On the back of the Coalition victory the new ABBOTT Government announced an independent Review into the Commonwealth Marine Reserve network that would focus on “future priorities” and “areas of contention”. The Review has recently completed its round of regional consultations.

A number of recreational fishing representatives reported that during the consultations they were told by the Review staff that recreational fishers were unlikely to have access to Marine National Parks (IUCN II) and that they should consider alternatives. In other words – no change to the previous process with recreational fishers locked out of Marine National Parks.

It appears that the Review may be making the same mistakes as the previous process and providing advise on what activities can take place in Marine National Parks by using unscientific terms such as ‘extractive’ and ‘no take’.

The use of such terms puts recreational fishers in the same category as industrial scale commercial fishing and oil and gas mining. Such terms do not recognise that recreational fishing can be adapted to minimise the impact of the activity on the marine environment, through the regulation of gear and through adoption of methods such as catch and release or selective targeting of species.

One recreational fisher commented, ”It’s like classifying a scuba diver as a submarine”.

It is clear that the use of such terms as ‘extractive’ and ‘no take’ by the Review to categorise recreational fishing represents a total lack of understanding of recreational fishing practices in Australia and this is disappointing and concerning.

Recreational fishers rightly expected a Review that based advice about access to marine reserves on scientific risk assessment rather than unscientific terms. For access to Marine National Parks (IUCN II) for example, this means a comparative risk assessment of all recreational activities, such as recreational fishing, diving and tourist activities.

It should also include assessments of impacts of other activities that are allowed in Marine National Parks, including cargo ships and defense activities.

If the science shows that marine areas are so environmentally sensitive that require limiting access for recreational fishers, then access for other recreational activities such as diving and tourism should also be assessed and appropriately limited, or the category should be changed (say to IUCN Ia or IUCN Ib).

The previous management plans were discriminatory as they excluded recreational fishing from vast areas of our seas, without any scientific justification. Yet diving, large-scale tourism, cargo, bulk carriers and even defense activities could still occur in these areas.

We understand the Review is still formulating its advice before reporting to the Government mid year. When it does, lets hope the Review has learnt from the mistakes of the previous process and the Government applies some common sense to the outcome.