A new, controversial super-trawler, the Dutch-owned FV Margiris, has set sail for Tasmania, off the south-east coast of Australia, to take a haul of jack mackerel and redbait
, prompting concerns it is going to decimate several Australian fish stocks as factory fishing
has done elsewhere in the world.
Greenpeace claims the industrial super-trawler is part of the European Association of pelagic freezer trawlers (PFA), responsible for "some of the worst fishing excesses on the planet.''
It is scheduled to be roaming between the Tasman Sea and Western Australia this spring.
The 9,600-tonne vessel is more than twice the size of the previous largest ship licensed to fish in Commonwealth waters, the 4,400t Ivan Golubets, which briefly fished in deep southern waters in 1992.
It was delayed by Greenpeace
by up to a week in Dutch port of Ijmuiden, Senegal, but is now steaming to Australia to be re-flagged.
JV partner Seafish Tasmania says the 18,000 tonne quota is sustainable is based on egg surveys that show fish stocks can withstand a larger haul, however Tasmanian Greens have obtained several documents under freedom of information laws, relating to the Government's decision to expand the Jack Mackerel East total allowable catch from 4,500-t to more than 10,000-tonnes in June.
It says the quota is just 5% of the total Australian fishery for small pelagic fish.
Tasmanian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie
claims the quota for the trawler is unlawful and invalid as Seafish Tasmania's Gerry Geen was at an Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) meeting
finalising the quota for the super trawler and that many questions need answers
before the ship is approved for operations in Australian waters.
(such as the Australian Conservation Foundation
) claim that such large-scale catches will drastically affect local fisheries based on larger fish that depend on the small pelagics. They claim that surface schools of jack mackerel that were once common off south-east Tasmania have not returned after the collapse
of that fishery over 20 years ago, and that "tonnes of by-catch – unwanted marine life like dolphins, seals and seabirds" will be thrown back dead.
, smaller professional fishers and tourist operators recently formed a flotilla of some 500 vessels
and are prepared to deliver petition with more than 33,000 signatures to the Prime Minister to stop the ship's certification.
Australia's Environment Minister Tony Burke has weighed into the debate
, concerned that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) usually focuses on number of fish caught, not the size of the ship, and is concerned there is a risk of over-fishing within a localised area.
It will also be difficult to police the quota, as seen by New Zealand
recently. It allowed a Korean super trawler in a joint venture with a local New Zealand operator under strict conditions, only to find a fleet of vessels chartered from Korea busted the quota
. The captain fled NZ and has been convicted in absentia.
NZ has been concerned by foreign-flagged operations
recently and is to end the practice following the 2010 sinking of Korean fishing boat the Oyang 70 which cost six sailors (possibly underpaid Indonesian national "slave fishers
") their lives (More
). NZ is planning to make some changes
Furthermore, fishing practices mean that the world's smallest and most endangered dolphin 'will die out' unless radical changes are made. It would be the first time in history a cetacean would have been wiped out by human activity
. A new documentary, The Price Of Fish
, is looking at the alleged plundering of NZ fish stocks.
Southern Bluefin Tuna Association CEO Brian Jeffriess says the trawler could set up opportunities such as providing feed for tuna farming
. Others say it will be good for job creation
. Others say factory ships are exactly what the world should expect
Pacific Tuna stocks are also in decline
The European-flagged ship also raises wider concerns about over-fishing
and industrial-scale exploitation
. With the collapse of European fisheries, processors have moved into Africa and the South Pacific. Greenpeace claims that over-fishing by super-trawlers means almost all the species targeted by foreign trawlers are now fully exploited or overexploited
, and the super-trawlers need to find new fisheries
Greenpeace argues that the super-trawlers would be uneconomic without subsidies from European taxpayers (PDF
There is a comprehensive podcast on the ABC's Background Briefing.