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up to 10 seals a day simply defy logic.
Gerry Green, Director of Seafish
Tasmania -- the operator of the 'Abel
Tasman' -- was "extremely disappointed"
with the government's decision. Mr Green
said the company had, "met every rule,
regulation and request made of us but the
Government ignored all our efforts,
concentrating on the size of the trawler
rather than the size of the quota and the
science supporting it."
Some 50 employees lost their jobs as a
result of the action and fishermen and
ports throughout the area are feeling
Australia's national broadcaster,
the ABC, reported that visiting Professor
Ray Hilborn, a fisheries academic
and expert on global fish stocks from
the University of Washington, said
Australians should be embarrassed
that politics was allowed to trump
science in the super trawler debate.
After the 'Abel Tasman' was banned,
subsequent attempts to introduce
smaller capacity freezer trawlers or a
floating factory to receive and process fish
from small, existing SET vessels were
stopped as well. Without a commercially
viable vessel in the area, almost no fish
To add insult to injury, the government
imposed a 34 per cent increase in
management levies from the previous year.
The Australian Fisheries Management
Authority (AFMA), after frequent
questioning, finally admitted that several
hundred thousand dollars was mistakenly
taken from the fishermen but that the
money would be returned in the next
The SET fishermen also have to
contend with another level of
governments, which oversee fisheries out
to the 12-mile limit
Earlier in the year, the New South Wales
Minister for Primary Industries removed
commercial catch limits for many fish
species for state-licenced vessels, ignoring
quotas for both recreational fishers and
Commonwealth fisheries beyond the
12-mile boundary. Citing the move as
"unsustainable", SETFIA contested the
decision, and in a significant U-turn the
minister reinstated the limits within
Another management crisis, affecting all
fisheries as well as the SET is adding to the
woes of seafood harvesting in Australia.
The imposition of green, protected, no-take
zones is out of control all around the coast.
Professor Buxton from the University of
Tasmania said, "Fishing is not a
threat in Australia but we perceive that we
need to have the world's largest marine
park protected areas. I just think it's
The rest of the world agrees. Well before
the 2012 announcement of the
unnecessary marine parks, a 2009 article in
the journal Nature ranked Australian
fisheries management the fourth best out
of 53 international fisheries.
Should it not be blatantly obvious that a
country with the third largest fishing zone
in the world should harvest at least at the
world average? Australia currently imports
overs 70 per cent of its domestic seafood
consumption. Why did the warning bell
not ring in 2007/8, when the major
crossover point occurred and both volume
and value of seafood imports exceeded that
of Australian production?
Where to from here?
Looking to the future, perhaps all parties
could sit around the table and consider the
state of the fishing industry -- the source of
the nation's seafood and the contribution
and future of fishermen, industry members,
coastal communities, the managers and the
provision of inexpensive wholesome local
seafood to the people.
Perhaps we could reverse the four Ps
that led to the current mess.
All parties must have a good look at
and review the prejudices that
have become institutionalised over the
last three decades. They should be
discussed openly and genuinely, and
those that do not stand up to scrutiny must
be disbanded. Forget the politicians, the
fringe groups and the financial big boys.
Reach an agreement between the fisherman
and the civil servants representing
All parties must jointly study, review
and validate the presumptions that have
arisen over the past 30 years. Fishermen
should promote their understanding of and
respect for the sea, the fish and the
ecosystems. And scientists must return to
the scientific method, and develop a plan
in agreement with all parties based on
All parties must consider their
perspectives and honestly, based on the
evidence, modify them to reflect the
Finally, the perception of the industry
participants must once again reflect those
skills and knowledge that propelled
Australian fishing to world-beating heights
in the 1970s.
continued from page 16
THE BEST IN THE WORLD?
The 'Abel Tasman' approaching
Port Lincoln, South Australia
Photo courtesy of Joseph Puglisi Jr and Seafish Tasmania
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