Jul 26, 2012

Something fishy going on with supertrawler brawl

The imminent arrival of one of the world's largest fishing trawlers has set off howls of protest from conservation groups -- but they only have themselves to blame, writes Crikey naturalist Lionel Elmore.

The imminent arrival of one of the world’s largest fishing trawlers in Australian waters has set off howls of protest from conservation groups — but they may only have themselves to blame.

The supertrawler Margiris, at 140 metres the largest fishing vessel ever to work in Australian waters, is expected to arrive in Tasmania within weeks. Opponents warn the factory ship will deplete fish stocks, damage the environment and squeeze out smaller fishing operators (including recreational fishermen).

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8 thoughts on “Something fishy going on with supertrawler brawl

  1. methley

    Thanks for the info.

    As if Tassie needs LESS jobs!

  2. Microseris

    Don’t see how “conservation groups” are to blame.

    To paraphrase “green groups” press for fishery to be sustainable. Bureaucrats implement process to restrict take and corporations exploit loophoole to introduce supertrawler to drag seafloor

    Sounds like bureaucrats have put in place the wrong process. Fix it!

  3. exasperated77

    The Margiris is a pelagic trawler, that means it’s net does not touch the seafloor-demersal trawlers do that. The fishery it will be participating in has struggled for years to make the use of small purse-seiners economic. Using the Margiris will mean they have a vessel unlimited by weather, unrestricted in operational range, able to catch the quota in a shorter space of time with less crewing, maintenance and fuel costs associated with the present fleet of smaller vessels. The species targeted are used primarily for conversion to fishmeal to feed farmed fish like the Tasmanian Atlantic salmon industry. Many green critics are pointing out the damage such vessels have done to places like west Africa where they gain access under corrupt deals with local governments which care nothing for the damage done to there own citizens livelihoods. Preventing the Margiris from participating in a scientifically managed fishery in the first world will mean it’s inevitable return to devasting third world fisheries in which case we will hear nothing from the sanctimonious opponents of this vessel

  4. mattsui

    This is becoming a real theme of late. Blame Conservationists/progressive political groups for the failed policy of state and federal governments whose interests (either short-term political or financial) or complete lack thereof, simply do not extend to practical long term sustainable outcomes.
    The fact is that science is being done and new things are being tried in the search for a way to feed the world without destroying it. No one interest group will ever be truly satisfied but you can rest assured that “conservation groups” are in for the long haul – they wont chuck it in and go home just because their efforts occasionally result in potentially negative outcomes.

  5. Gerry Hatrick, OAP

    So which sentence do we read why this monstrosity is coming to fish, so we have some evidence to look at, rather than meaningless fluff?

  6. Nat P

    Whoah… for starters, this is not a bottom trawling vessel – it’s a midwater trawler. You won’t find a single conservation group that got that bit wrong.

    Second, there are quotas for a fishery (or total allowable catch – TAC) in other words a limit on how much fish can be taken out of an entire fishery in a year and there are individual transferable quotas (ITQs) or tradeable portions of that TAC. You have conflated the two. No serious environmental group advocates for ITQs – but every serious one advocates for catch limits.

    And rightly so, there is percentage of biomass of a species that can be taken out of that population without fundamental damage to the population and more importantly the eco-system that population is a part of. That figure is very hard to come up with without very good, recent scientific data and an ecosystem-based approach. In this case we have neither.

    As for sharing the fishing around, how we manage access to portions of the quota is the hard part – and as you say, gear types and vessel sizes as well as historic footprints and a range of factors should be considered – allowing a free market in quota portions is very clearly a recipe for monopoly and large destructive factory vessels.

  7. methley

    RE exasperated

    So, using less crew is ‘good’?

    Jobs don’t matter?

  8. exasperated77

    Methley, the Tasmanian Jack Mackeral fishery has existed since the 1980’s but has teeter’d on the edge of viability for much of that time. The problem is the boasts used in the fishery have a limited range and capacity. Operating from Triabunna on the west coast of Tasmania they are unable to follow the fish very far from home and concentrate their efforts within a roughly 1-200 mile range, some years very little catch is recorded simply because the fish are swimming to far from port. The advantage the Margiris will have is the ability to follow what is a very mobile pelagic species to wherever ocean currents, sea temperatures and plankton abundance are causing the fish to aggregate. My point is that the Margiris will provide a reliable steady income to whoever crews her ( hopefully Australian) as opposed to unreliable, erratic incomes and some years no income at all. I’ve seen what happens in fisheries when managers try to maximize licences and jobs, it’s better to have fewer, better paying jobs with less incentive to overexploit a fishery due to trying to share too few fish between too many especially when fish populations fluctuate. Less boats means less greenhouse gases burnt as well

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