Friday 8 June: Fishermen and environment groups are gravely concerned at plans announced by Seafish on Tuesday to bring one of the world’s largest and most destructive fishing trawlers, FV Margiris, to Tasmania and are calling on the Federal Government to reject granting the vessel permission to fish in Australian waters.
The FV Margiris is linked to the European Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association (PFA), an EU taxpayer-subsidized fleet with a history of leaving collapsed fisheries and out-of-work fishermen in its wake. The FV Margiris is now planning to target already-dwindling populations of small pelagic fish crucial to the Tasmanian marine ecosystem.
“Small pelagic fishing around Tasmania already has a bad record. The schools of jack mackerel that were once common off southeast Tasmania haven’t returned more than 20 years after the fishery that targeted them collapsed due to a lack of fish,” said Jon Bryan of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust. “To allow a vessel that makes most Australian fishing boats look like bath toys into this fishery when there is no strategy in place to ensure that local stocks are not overfished is concerning in the extreme.”
To accommodate the vessel, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s (AFMA) has doubled the quota for small pelagics and watered down its harvest strategy so that there is no longer a requirement for the regular science-based stock assessments needed to ensure sustainable fishing.
The fish the Margiris will target are a vital food source for important species like the critically endangered southern bluefin tuna, seabirds, marine mammals and game fish. Trawlers of this type have a horrendous record of by-catch and the ship itself represents a direct threat to marine mammals like dolphins and seals.
“There are major concerns about mortalities of seals, sea birds and dolphins as a result of this vessel’s fishing activities. There are also potentially devastating consequences of fishing these important prey species to levels where there aren't enough to sustain natural ecosystem processes,” said Tooni Mahto, Marine Campaigner with the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS). “We urge the Government to take their management responsibility seriously and refuse entry to this ship, in the interests of the long-term productivity of our marine resources, the health and well-being of vulnerable marine wildlife, and a future for the local fishing industry”
International environmental group Greenpeace has taken direct action against the FV Margiris already this year of the coast of West Africa where dramatic overfishing is occurring.
“Vessels like the FV Margiris and its bloated fleet of heavily subsidised European trawlers have fished their own waters to near collapse and they’ve brought fisheries to their knees everywhere they've been since,” said Nathaniel Pelle, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner.
The South Pacific jack mackerel fishery, a favourite of the Margiris and the PFA, made headlines this year when fish populations plummeted by ninety percent.
Off West Africa almost all the PFA’s target species are now fully exploited or overexploited. This year the Senegalese government took the extraordinary step of expelling all foreign pelagic trawlers from their waters.
“The Australian government can’t simply allow it to move on to our waters where it will cause the same destruction; that’s bad for Australia and it’s globally irresponsible,” said Pelle.
A UN FAO report in 1998 concluded the global fishing fleet was 2.5 times larger than global fisheries could sustain and the fleet has swollen further since meaning dramatic cuts are needed to ensure productive fisheries into the future.
“Fishing capacity must be cut by more than half and boats like Margiris should be scrapped first. We need to draw a line in the sand and decide which vessels are allowed to ply our ocean for fish. If it robs ordinary fishermen of jobs it needs to go. If it’s propped up by unsustainable subsidies it goes. If it’s using destructive fishing methods that result in tonnes of by-catch it goes. And if it’s so big that no stretch of ocean can sustain its hunger for fish it goes” said Pelle.
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For more information contact:
Jon Bryan, Tasmanian Conservation Trust : 0428 303116
Nathaniel Pelle, Greenpeace: 0402 856 063
Tooni Mahto, Australian Marine Conservation Society: 0467 081258