I am deeply concerned about the proposal for the super trawler, FV Margiris, to undertake commercial pelagic fishery operations within Australian Commonwealth waters.
The Australian Government and the commercial fisheries industry have made progress over recent years towards more sustainable practices but this proposal will be a massive step backwards.
I want the Australian fisheries to be managed in an ecologically sustainable manner whereby our unique and threatened marine life is protected from over exploitation.
Stock data and knowledge of the way ecosystems within this pelagic fishery is limited, and so I believe the precautionary principle should apply.
By allowing the super trawler to conduct industrial-scale fishing targeting bait fish stocks goes against these principles.
I am also concerned that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority has not adequately addressed the following critical issues.
- Localised depletion of fish stocks: There is no strategy in place to safeguard against the super trawler wiping out bait fish stocks in one area.
- Ecosystem-wide impacts: Bait fish are a key feed source for a number marine species including bottlenose dolphins, Australian fur seals and sea birds and other fish of recreational, commercial and ecological value.
- Impacts on threatened species: Measures to reduce the by-catch of non-targeted species such as dolphins and seals have not been tested for a trawler of this size and a single human observer cannot adequately monitor during 24 hour fishing operations.
- Stock assessments and fisheries management: The 18,000 tonne quota for the super trawler is based on fish stock data that is a couple of years old and the wider ecosystem impacts of this fishery have not been assessed.
As federal ministers responsible for Australia's natural environment and fisheries you both have the authority to stop the super trawler from operating in Australian waters.
I ask you to please exercise this authority on behalf of the Australian public.
Allowing the super trawler to enter Australian waters will undo the steps taken towards sustainable fisheries management in Australia and damage the credibility of your marine protection initiatives.