Monday, 8 February 2016

The Turnbull Government continues the Abbott Government's failure to protect Australian marine life from foreign super trawlers including the Geelong Star

Image of Geelong Star (formerly FV Dirk Dirk) and position heading towards the Bass Strait on 28 January 2016

Geelong Advertiser, 2 February 2016:

THE dolphin-killing trawler Geelong Star has been cleared to return to work just days after being suspended for the deaths of seven albatross in one trip.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority lifted its ban on the controversial fishing vessel on Sunday after authorities were satisfied the length of net cables had been reduced and made more visible.

The trawler must stop fishing “immediately” if a seabird is killed by the cable until the authority has investigated.
Geelong Star’s management plan, updated on January 16, shows the trawler will be forced to carry an AFMA observe on “at least the next trip” if two or more marine mammals are found in the end of the net.

A full reassessment is required if any changes are made to the exclusion device, which is designed to prevent seal and dolphin deaths.

AFMA chief executive Nick Rayns said the new protection methods came on top of existing mitigation methods…..

Greens spokesman for fisheries Peter Whish-Wilson said the AFMA’s catch and release of Geelong Star risked making a mockery of the regulation.

“If a member of the public had killed seven albatross over a week they would be charged under Australian environmental laws,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.

“If over the period of a year a member of public had killed some dolphins, some more dolphins, then some seals and finally some albatross then that person would probably end up doing jail time.

“But it is one law for the member of the public and another for the Geelong Star.

“The Geelong Star has been given a license to kill protected marine species and it’s time its license was revoked.”

Stop the Trawler and Environment Tasmania spokeswoman Rebecca Hubbard said it was time for the Federal Government to overrule the AFMA and ban the trawler outright….

Mercury, 1 February 2016:

A COALITION of environmentalists and recreational fishers has expressed alarm at a recommendation by a newly appointed scientific panel to increase the Geelong Star’s total catch.

The Stop the Trawler Alliance argues that the recommendation — disclosed at a stakeholder forum in Hobart on Thursday — had been made, despite ongoing concerns from recreational fishers and conservationists that the large factory freezer trawler could cause localised depletion of fish stocks.

“A newly appointed scientific panel is now proposing to increase the total catch from 42,000 tonnes to over 49,000 tonnes,” said Rebecca Hubbard from Environment Tasmania.

“Instead of listening to community concerns the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) have further reduced stakeholders input into critical decision-making processes.”…..

A brief history of this super trawler owned by Parlevliet & Van der Plas Beheer B.V. and contracted to its Australian subsidiary, Seafish Tasmania, can be found here.

Marine reserves in Australian waters may also be under further threat from commercial fishing with The Guardian reporting this on 6 February 2016:

Australia’s leading marine scientists are appealing to the federal government to reject a review expected to recommend a significant reduction in the size of ocean sanctuaries and an expansion of areas permitted for commercial fishing.

Tony Abbott announced the review of the boundaries of Labor’s marine parks, counted by the former government as one of its greatest environmental achievements, during the 2013 election campaign, and said he would scrap the just-finished management plans so that the fishing industry could be given a greater say.

The leading scientists understand the review, now finally completed, recommends a sizeable reduction in some areas previously designated as closed to fishing and trawling, particularly in the Coral Sea, and say it has ignored expert scientific advice.

“If the government winds back what was already just partial environmental protection it would be terrible for the environment and send a terrible message to the world,” said West Australian marine science professor Jessica Meeuwig.

“We have no faith in this process. They haven’t spoken to marine scientists, despite our best efforts. They spent a lot of time talking to the extractive industries. 

If Malcolm Turnbull is serious about being guided by science and by evidence he will reject recommendations to reduce marine sanctuary zones,” she said.

Meeuwig is one of 10 leading marine researchers who have formed the Ocean Science Council of Australia and have published benchmarks against which the review should be judged, including:

* No further diminishment of marine national park zoning in bioregions and key ecological features should occur as these are already significantly under-represented in the 2012 plans

* The international standard for ocean protection of a minimum of 30% of each marine habitat in highly protected no-take marine national parks should be met;

* Very large marine national parks such as that proposed for the Coral Sea should be preserved.......

This is one of the areas potentially under threat:

The new Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve covers 989 842 km2 and is an important national asset in near pristine condition. The reserve will be managed for the primary purpose of conserving the biodiversity found in it, while also allowing for the sustainable use of natural resources in some areas. The reserve includes the different marine ecosystems and habitats of the Coral Sea marine region and will help ensure our marine environment remains healthy and is more resilient to the effects of climate change and other pressures.

The Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve will provide additional protection for many species listed as endangered or vulnerable under Commonwealth legislation or international agreements, including the endangered loggerhead and leatherback turtles and the critically endangered Herald petrel. The reserve also supports the world's only confirmed spawning aggregation of black marlin.

Sites of high productivity in the reserve, such as those around seamounts, are important aggregators for a range of species including lanternfish, albacore tuna, billfish and sharks. Large marine mammals journey hundreds or even thousands of kilometres to breed in the reserve, or to travel through en route to breeding areas.

The new Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve encompasses the former Coral Sea Conservation Zone, former Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve and former Lihou Reef National Nature Reserve. Transitional management arrangements apply until a management plan for the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve is in place.

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