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Super trawler not the only fishing problem needing review

Tony Burke and Joe Ludwig have just announced a review of the Fisheries Management Act and the EPBC Act, thanks to public opposition to the super trawler. But the Commonwealth should take a good hard look…

Super trawlers aren’t the only boats that take bycatch: 200 black browed albatross could be caught every year in the Commonwealth’s South East Trawl Fishery. Geoff Edwards

Tony Burke and Joe Ludwig have just announced a review of the Fisheries Management Act and the EPBC Act, thanks to public opposition to the super trawler. But the Commonwealth should take a good hard look at its other trawl fisheries to see if they need tougher regulation.

It is not just super trawl fishing in the Commonwealth’s Small Pelagic Fishery that should be under question. The other trawl fishing activity that should be subject to tighter legislation to prevent unacceptable impacts on fish and protected species is the South East Trawl.

The Commonwealth’s South East Trawl sector - fished by small vessels - is far more destructive in terms of mortality of protected species than is the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF), where the super trawler FV Abel Tasman was to fish.

Commonwealth South East Trawl Sector Commonwealth of Australia

Moreover there are four major species of fish officially overfished – some for years on end – in the SE trawl fishery. None of the small pelagics targeted in the SPF are overfished.

The South East Trawl fishery interacts strongly with - that is, kills - the protected Australian fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus), and to a lesser extent the Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinera), listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act.

Between 1993 and 2000, the Scientific Monitoring Program suggested that an average of 720 fur seals are caught incidentally by the small trawl vessels each year. The Abel Tasman, had it been allowed to fish, would have had its activity suspended any time it caught three seals.

Stopping the super trawler is a good start, but it will take more to protect the Australian fur seal. Michael Sale

Compared with large vessel operators, who are well resourced, the operators of the smaller vessels or “wet-boats” in this fishery, are constrained in applying mitigation methods such as seal exclusion devices (SEDs). Recent trials of a flexible SED design have been relatively successful but reliably estimating and reducing the level of interactions between seals and wet-boats remains an issue.

The bycatch consisting of many non-target species in addition to fur seals, some of which are protected under the EPBC Act, is of real concern. While fisheries are required to avoid interactions with threatened, endangered and protected species and all interactions are to be reported in logbooks, the logbooks are known to under-report the levels of interactions with some species. Data and observer coverage on seabird interactions in the South East Trawl are limited and greater participation and port-sampling programs are required for reliable data to be collected.

While data is deficient, in the calendar year 2006 a cumulative catch of 250 black browed albatross (endangered in the IUCN Red List) and 861 shy albatross (near threatened under the IUCN Red List and endemic to only three islands off Tasmania) was estimated for the Commonwealth Trawl Fishery. Both species are listed as vulnerable in the threatened fauna list under the Commonwealth’s EPBC Act. There was found to be no mitigation of seabird bycatch in the CTS, the Commonwealth fishery with the greatest number of observed interactions in 2006. Reducing the seabird mortality in the CTS is thus a priority for the development of mitigation measures.

If the cumulative catch rate found in the above study has continued across the fishery, then 1,300 black browed albatross and 5,166 shy albatross would have been captured in the six years 2006-2011.

This is a wholly unacceptable level of bycatch.

Join the conversation

89 Comments sorted by

  1. John Q Citizen, Aussie

    Administrator

    Common sense has prevailed and the Super Trawler has been banned form its operations for two years.

    With legislation to be drafted and to be passed (11/09) ?? to ensure this type of fishing is never seen in or around Australian waters again.

    The potentially deadly By-catch is too much and the dangers of deep see vacuuming to produce for your fish fingers, just too great and destructive.

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    1. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Colin Hunt

      Colin,

      You are correct about the commonwealth trawl fishery but there are some distinctions that need to be made. Not all trawl fishing is unsustainable if well managed.

      Our state prawn trawl fishery in SA has been managed quite well and includes the introduction of 'trawler blocks' which are designated square areas that define where a trawler can fish. This ensures some areas are not trawled for month,years etc and gives habitat a chance to regenerate. With sound quotas, as well as other regs…

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    2. John Q Citizen, Aussie

      Administrator

      In reply to Colin Hunt

      Agreed Colin we do. That the super trawler as allowed in, in the first place is bad enough.

      That we have it on the 'front page' hopefully will, get something happening, to regulate...BUT.

      That the centralist and de-regulatory liberals in federal opposition have now said NO (12/09) beggars belief. No doubt the screaming skull can justify his decision to inflict more silliness into any debate.

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    3. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to John Q Citizen, Aussie

      I doubt whether Mr Rabbit has a formed opinion on trawlers, save "what's good publicity?"

      John Q, it was actually quite legal and, indeed, reasonable that the trawler was "allowed in".

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    4. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      Wade, you may have a higher opinion of your state fisheries regulators than is justified. Bottom trawling *sometimes* permanently changes seabed ecology.

      May make me unpopular, but recreational fishing is not as benign as many make out - it is highly selective for larger fish sizes, and in bays, inlets and inland waterways *often* causes significant localised depletion. Rec catch can be a substantial proportion of the biomass stock, and is only minimally effort-regulated.

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    5. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Quote...."Wade, you may have a higher opinion of your state fisheries regulators than is justified. Bottom trawling *sometimes* permanently changes seabed ecology."

      I have no delusions of opinion as prawn trawling is an inherently destructive process. However I will not denigrate the measures taken by our SA trawl fishers who have maintained their fishery for many years through self regulation in the main.

      Quote....May make me unpopular, but recreational fishing is not as benign as many make…

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    6. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      Trouble with rec effort is that entry is effectively unlimited (you don't even have a license fee in SA I think). And there is effort creep with all the fancy lures and gear...

      So plenty of effort restrictions on bag/size limits etc, but there are millions of rec fishers across the country vs a few hundred commercial boats for the commonwealth. And rec fishing has poor data compared to commercial - yes, there are some surveys, but not much coverage, and don't most rec fishers exaggerate? (I was going to say "lie" but don't want to inflame things :)

      Sorry, should have said local biomass.

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    7. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      75% of all recreational caught snapper in SA are returned to the water according to official PIRSA statistics. For many other species this rate is close to 100%.

      Define recreational fishing 'take' compared to effort?

      I fish with my 4 year old son all the time and have returned every fish while fishing with him.

      To promote unlimited effort as a means to create false perceptions of detrimental effect could only come from someone who has no idea of the realities of recreational fishing versus commercial.

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    8. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      Unlimited rec-fishing entry is just a fact - anyone can go fishing.

      Seriously, though - close to 100% of recreational catch returned? Doesn't tally with what I see at boat ramps. Or maybe it's just me biasing the stats - my son has yet to return a legal-sized fish to the water. Not that he catches that many...

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    9. Venise Alstergren
      Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

      photographer, blogger.

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Apart from the catch landed in Australia. Ditto sold overseas. What happens to these huge catches? Don't tell me, the catch is sold for pet food? Which was probably the catches' destination in the first place.

      Perhaps you should inform your son of the correct fishing procedures?

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    10. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Venise Alstergren

      Venise, you replied to me, but I can't understand your post. You mean recreational catch is mostly going to pet food? I can't believe that - most would go to own consumption.

      My son is very aware of the correct fishing procedures (at least as far as size and bag limits).

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    11. Venise Alstergren
      Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

      photographer, blogger.

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      No Andy, I was not referring to recreational fishing here. (Although the wastage I've seen on some private boats is shocking) All I was imagining is the Abel Tasman, and other such boats probably have a large part of their catch prior- marketed. In the likely/unlikely event that a part of the catch hasn't been bespoke, it is probably going to end up in pet food cans.

      Knowing how much of the potential cargo is forward sold would enable to off-load the petfood consignment before they get to Africa. {All this is hypothesis, I admit. Sadly, I'm unaware of existing habits of trawlers already operating in Oz waters.}

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    12. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Venise Alstergren

      Yes, they most likely have pre-commitments for selling their catch - as they said, in Africa for human consumption.

      This market has been well-researched in the past, there is a very large volume able to be sold into the market, albeit at a low price.

      Very much doubt it will end up in pet food - lower price.

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    13. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Andy,

      How many recreationals keep legal size fish they don't like to eat?

      Plenty of species get returned 100%.

      Netting leaves most dead and doesn't discriminate between whether fish are on the bite or not.

      You draw too many long bows in your recreational fishing comparisons.

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    14. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Yep ... but it explains why the Africans are buying our fish Andy which was actually my point.

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    15. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      But wouldn't you rather have a large vessel like this here, in a fishery where it won't do significant damage to the stocks, bycatch etc, or in an unregulated fishery where it can?

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    16. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      To be honest Andy I'd rather not have them anywhere - at least until we have a serious handle on the stock and its recovery rates.

      We've done this before - and recently - with Gemfish and Orange Roughy - hooking into stuff we know virtually nothing about - how and where they breed in particular and over what timeframe.

      I'm hoping you are right about these pelagics being young breeding frisky fish that bounce back quickly but a large part of our approach is based on guesswork and hunches until…

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  2. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    I'd also be hoping that there is a serious inquiry into the operation of the "co-management" regime that is enshrined in the Fisheries Management Act - seems to enshrine conflict of interest by the look of it.

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    1. Colin Hunt

      Honorary Fellow in Economics at University of Queensland

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Yes indeed Peter,
      The reconciliation of maximising economic efficiency in fisheries while at the same time applying the principles of ecologically sustainable development comes down to a value judgement in the end. How many protected and other species is it acceptable to sacrifice? I think public awareness is rising with respect to ecological values and tighter controls on bycatch will follow.
      http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/legis/cth/bill_em/flafaaomb2005808/memo_0.html?stem=0&synonyms=0&query=cooperative%20management#disp1

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Colin Hunt

      For my sins a few years back I found myself involved in a three day workshop aiming to develop a consensus policy leading to a sustainable fishing industry in NSW. I was representing the NPWS - the token greenie in a room of forty or more scientists, bureaucrats and fishing industry reps.

      Guess what the central criterion established for a sustainable industry involved: Maintaining employment and profitability. This bent the notion of sustainability into a pretzel of self-serving justification.

      The fish were just deemed to be some sort of infinite resource. The purpose of government was deemed to be protecting the industry - not the resource.
      The views of the industry (and the regulators) was so entrenched, narrow and self-interested that any serious discussion was impossible. My arguments were considered extreme and "unhelpful".

      One of the most disheartening events I've ever participated in. And it looks like nothing has changed.

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    3. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      This is an interesting discussion.

      In my past experience the poor old environmental or NGO rep (when represented) was substantially outnumbered by industry, fishery statisticians and management at the RAGs (resource assessment groups). The MACs (Management Advisory Groups) I believe always have one member who is tasked with representing environmental or conservation interests.

      It is very instructive to take a look at the staffing of the MACs from this perspective and then to also chase down…

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    4. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, NSW fisheries management is particularly poor. Fortunately their jurisdiction only extends 3nm. Unfortunately migratory fish don't know that.

      Fred, sympathise with being outnumbered. But a mixture of backgrounds often gives a better outcome. Having fishing-industry types involved can, say, come up with much more practical SEDs/BRDs. I believe AFMA is careful to (mostly) have industry MAC members not from that fishery but from another. Avoids accusations of favouritism etc.

      Having "green" members means that some import is given to ecological damage (maybe not as much as you'd prefer, but better than none at all). And indeed, maybe AFMA should have a "green" commissioner - one less politician surely wouldn't be missed.

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    5. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      "Fred, sympathise with being outnumbered. But a mixture of backgrounds often gives a better outcome. Having fishing-industry types involved can, say, come up with much more practical SEDs/BRDs. I believe AFMA is careful to (mostly) have industry MAC members not from that fishery but from another. Avoids accusations of favouritism etc."

      Andy - I wasn't a green rep - I was a CSIRO fisheries stock dynamics scientist assisting with stock assessments and data analysis for 10 years. I support Peter's observations. I am actually endorsing a "greater" mix of backgrounds with greater representation by professional marine biodiversity and conservation experts who have "not" come from an industry or fisheries background!

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    6. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Fred Pribac

      I think everyone is missing the real point here. 63% of mackeral stocks globally dissapeared due to these super trawlers since 2006.

      Gerry Geen and AFMA quote 10 year old science for this very reason. They ignore the global situation for short term profits. They need to move from country to country, ocean to ocean because its short sharp extraction capacity that breaks down the food chains.

      This mob will take their quota in well under a year and then try and use it to justify increasing that…

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    7. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      I think Wade is missing the point here.

      Gerry Geen hasn't moved country (well, for at least a couple of decades). Mackerel stocks here are fine, and are unrelated to mackerel stocks in the Atlantic or elsewhere.

      TAC setting uses fishery-independent data, so the current catch level doesn't determine the future quota. The stock hasn't crashed despite historical catches double the current quota.

      I'm actually struggling to find something close to fact in what you wrote, Wade. Just stating (or repeating) assertions doesn't make them true.

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    8. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Ever heard of plane flights overseas? The boat Gerry has had a financial stake in has moved way too much around this planet unfortunately.

      What is related Andy is the same boats that fished out the other mackeral stocks of the planet now have a target for our mackeral stocks. If they gave a damn despite the management regime they have fished under we wouldn't care.

      No relation between stocks but plenty between the people who own/operate these unwanted ventures.

      You Sir are the master of…

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    9. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      Wade, the quota can't just hop on a plane...

      Gerry Geen? I suppose he could, as could you or I. So what?

      Yep, this boat can remove 18,000 tonnes. Probably not in 90 days (but if it did, wouldn't that show how abundant the stock actually is? The boat would only cover a tiny fraction of the fishery in that time). SA sardine (which is a small pelagic...) take 35000 tonnes from a tiny area.

      The underhanded actions seem to be also on the part of the ombudsman - see http://www.afma.gov.au/2012/09/afma-chair-hits-out-at-unlawful-quota-claims

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    10. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Yes, Wadesly has his own theories and doesn't agree just as many scientists (including some on here) don't agree with AFMA or Gerry or yourself.

      I have heard these people admit publicly they made errors in the process, didn't folllow the legislative requirements etc.

      I have heard these same people attack our government, environmentalists, other scientists, the wider Australian public and anyone else who don't want super trawlers fishing our waters for very sound environmental reasons/concerns…

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    11. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      PS...add the ombudsman onto that list of attacked as well.....looks like these people think they have the right to act against the will of the Australian public?

      Everyone who doesn't give Gerry what he wants is a target...go figure?

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    12. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      Wadsley has little background in fisheries (probably a great guy for sedimentary reservoir simulation) and has been shown up to be out of his depth on this issue.

      There aren't any facts in what you say, just assertions, so not much to refute - you are entitled to your own opinions even if there is little in the way of facts to support them.

      It was the chairman of AFMA (ex-Treasurer of NSW, I believe) who attacked the ombudsman, not me. Ombudsmen are supposed to be an avenue for achieving procedural fairness - having one not follow fair procedures is startling.

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    13. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      At the end of the day Andy Australians don't want super trawlers period and our democracy will see it gone for good hopefully.

      You promote pro Seafood Tasmania mantra straight from their own political lines and yet claim independence?

      Your views are not factual but biased towards bucking the will of the Australian people who say NO to this floating factory.

      Standing up for those who clearly have broken the rules is not factual. They broke the rules and come out denigrating all others publicly?

      Please take a hard look at yourself.

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    14. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      "Clearly broken the rules"? The Chair of AFMA says not. That's a fact. Where's your facts? You're getting close to libelling me ("your views are not factual"). Please be careful (and maybe polite as well).

      You're promoting the opposite, yet haven't declared your interests in the matter. Care to do so?

      Maybe you are the Wade Macdonald that:

      1. Organises rec-fishing protests against MPAs in Adelaide? http://www.saveourseafood.com.au/2011/05/16/about-200-fisherman-and-concerned-residents-rally-against-impact-of-proposed-fisheries-bans

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    15. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Mr Andy,

      The rules and the operation of AFMA will be investigated properly and there will be an independent review of their decision-making processes top to bottom. Michael Egan says they didn't. The Ombudsman says they did. We'll see. Eventually. That's how it works. But we won't get far deciding on that here.

      Thanks for a good and well-natured discussion ... it will be interesting watching this story unfold in coming weeks and see where we all end up.

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    16. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Yeah, likewise.

      "Michael Egan says they didn't. The Ombudsman says they did." Yep, but Michael Egan also says the ombudsman never contacted AFMA, so it seems difficult to see how the ombudsman says that. But pretty easy to check (all the ombudsman has to do is show they did contact AFMA...).

      Will indeed be interesting...

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    17. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Honestly Andy...I don't know what to believe on this issue anymore? All these articles come out saying AFMA has told the ministers they failed to comply with the Act, then an AFMA rep says they did comply?

      What in blazers is going on here?

      As for MPA's and the peer reviewed science they were generated from...this super trawler issue is a perfect example!

      It has little to do with recreational fishing. MPA's have not come about because of OZ rec fishers but we will be unduly influenced by their introduction. The initial SA proposal would have seen 25% of our state waters unfishable for reccies...the last two years have just been plain terrible for us reccies in SA.

      Snapper and garfish management issues plus way too much too bother commenting. Add this on top and its been a dogs breakfast.

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    18. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      The articles, I think, say the Ombudsman said AFMA admitted they broke the law. AFMA says they didn't talk at all to the Ombudsman. Should be relatively simple to sort out now.

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    19. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Fair enough then.

      I know I have gotten on my high horse over this issue and it comes from history. Years of history both state and Federal.

      I fear the implementation of this super trawler will only serve to cement the enlargement of sanctuary zones and negate the recreational fishers ability to negotiate with government on MPA's and other issues.

      I fear that any detrimental impact this boat may cause will see us rec fishers again loose out to the bigger conservation and commercial fishing interests in more ways than I care to post.

      It just appears that everything our commercial fishing bodies could do to make life hard for us reccies in our fight to maintain a sustainable recreation is being thrust upon us.

      For these reasons, this 'dubious' process in the media and many more...I find it hard to support this trawler!

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  3. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    Yes, its an unacceptable level of bycatch, not that I know what an acceptable level is for a totally redundant food.

    But the bycatch has to be somehow normalised over the food value of the fish. X albatrosses killed when catching Y tonnes of food (human food), isn't the same as X albatrosses killed when catching Y tonnes of tuna feed which go on to provide about Y/10 tonnes of tuna. The margaris was going to catch 18,000 tonnes of human food (for West Africa). So which is preferable its bycatch or the bycatch involved in catching 60,000 tonnes of tuna feed to fatten tuna for rich Japanese?

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  4. Ib Svane

    Marine scientist

    It's on time that the by-catch problems in trawl fisheries are taken seriously. In particular benthic trawling (prawns) is a destructive practice that not only have serious by-catch problems, but also change the environments where trawling occur. It is laughable that the fishing industries deny impact. These industries have escaped regulation because of their political influence. They even go so far as to threatening scientists including myself reporting on this issue. One of the problems is also how FRDC distribute research funding. You cannot get funding without industry approval allowing a small group of Government agency scientist to dominate!

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    1. Colin Hunt

      Honorary Fellow in Economics at University of Queensland

      In reply to Ib Svane

      Ib, I also think we have a large number scientists and academics generally working on projects funded by the government and corporations (and not just in fishing but across the board) who do not want to compromise their funding and their research by speaking out.

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  5. Fiona Haines

    Professor of Criminology at University of Melbourne

    Thanks for a very helpful and informative article. It is yet another example of how environmental risk can only be managed within its political context and how it is most likely to be addressed when doing nothing threatens political legitimacy. This is not to say that good measures cannot be taken, nor that science is not important. Good measures require good science. But it is much harder when the measures needed cut across political interests, such as in this case the need to control small 'wet' boats,' control that potentially threaten local political interests as well as federal concerns with needing to be seen to be responding to the needs of rural electorates. It is much easier when the boat can be seen as 'foreign' (i.e. 'big and bad') and going against what is normal. 'Normal' levels of destruction are much more difficult to tackle. You have provided much food for thought with your article, thanks.

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  6. Venise Alstergren
    Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

    photographer, blogger.

    A very interesting, and informative article. However, I have a couple of questions. A) Why is a super trawler likely to jettison its catch in the case of a bycatch? B) How many 'bycatches' are needed to quantify and qualify as worth jettisoning an entire catch for?

    Whether or not it's because our media is 80% owned by Rupert Murdoch and/or Fairfax, I don't know, but how does this information on the smaller trawlers escape public notice?

    Thanks once again for your aticle

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    1. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Venise Alstergren

      I cannot understand why our senior politicians consider that the only way to monitor a trawler's activities is to have another land-based enquiry. Would it not simpler and considerably more effective to allow the ABEL TASMAN to fish for a set number of days and to monitor its catch on-board? At least those taking part would be presented with facts rather than remote psuedo-scientific possibilities.
      The other argument, about the size of its catch at 18,000 tonnes per year is something that can be measured in monthly surveys. Those writing their doomsday books must be fully conversant with how such things are done - so do it ! Please let us not throw the baby out with the bath water solely because someone is fearful of a happening which has not yet happened and which is a product of someone's imagination.
      Hopefully, facts will triumph over imagined outcomes.

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    2. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Venise Alstergren

      The original trigger conditions (and they were specific for this vessel, not for others around the traps) were for it to stop fishing if 2 seals or 1 dolphin were caught.

      Fish bycatch (i.e. non-targeted species) would be either landed (if of some commercial value) or discarded if not. If a quota-controlled species (and most commercial ones are) then quota would have to be arranged (bought or leased from another fishing outfit if they didn't already have it. But bycatch of non-targeted species is rare for mid-water trawls.

      In any case, if there is bycatch, the original catch is not discarded.

      Why does the media not report "normal" small trawler seabird/mammal interactions (and let's be blunt, that's sometimes a euphemism for shooting seals when they get too annoying)? Because they're lazy. The whole Margiris saga was really just media outlets reprinting a Greenpeace press release that contained some astonishing inaccuracies.

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    3. Venise Alstergren
      Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

      photographer, blogger.

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Thanks for your reply.

      ""But bycatch of non-targeted species is rare for mid-water trawls."" So stiff luck if endangered species such as members of the albatross family get hauled in?

      I wonder how they get rid of the bycatch without releasing what's in their nets?

      Of course the media is lazy. On the other hand people who work for Greenpeace demonstrably are not lazy. I'm prepared to give them a lot of credit for at least trying to right some horrible wrongs committed by our state and Federal governments on the hapless environment.

      Why do I have the feeling that even now information is being withheld? {this query is not necessarily directed at you.} Once again, thank you for your reply.

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    4. Venise Alstergren
      Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

      photographer, blogger.

      In reply to Michael Hay

      Without imagination mankind wouldn't have got as far as it has. {If indeed we have progressed}

      Why should the taxpayer have to fork out for sea based accommodation on top of the funding these various NGOs/Governments/QANGOS, and all the other people involved?

      The previous post by Andy Saunders cheerfully acknowledges that the media doesn't inform the public as to what is going on, even within the Federal governments aegis which begs the question; why should the public believe the imaginary stats from the Abel Tasman, whose own spokesman has a stake in applying a gigantic vacuum to our fishing grounds? And, why is it ignoble to question the wisdom of supinely giving in to massive rape of the environment?

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    5. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Venise Alstergren

      At a rough guess, albatross are equally at risk from this trawler as any other. So if you have multiple smaller trawlers replacing this big one, you'll have more albatross mortality (albatross are typically killed by the warps, they don't get netted).

      Small pelagics are vacuum-pumped from the cod-end of the nets. If there are seals or dolphins in the net (that are dead) then they will be left behind (won't go through the pump) and will be hoisted in the net (or hoisted separately).

      If there is fish bycatch (rare), then it will come out at the grading stage where the fish are sorted mechanically by size.

      Yes the Greenpeace people are not lazy. However their zeal can cause them to include falsehoods in their publicity material, sometimes wilfully. Greenpeace is well acquainted with the Australian fisheries management system (they participate substantially in it) so they have little excuse for the falsehoods.

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    6. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Venise Alstergren

      Venise, you're twisting the meaning of my words.

      The Abel Tasman would have had permanent observer coverage. Many/most other trawlers have intermittent or no observer coverage, as Colin Hunt points out there are considerable problems likely.

      If no observers are on board, bycatch *may* be under-reported in logbooks. Media is unlikely to find out about this, or maybe it doesn't make a good story.

      I don't understand the comment "Why should the taxpayer have to fork out for sea based accommodation" - the cost of the observers is mostly their salary. Fishing vessels have to provide the at-sea accommodation (on the vessel). Commonwealth fisheries are fully cost-recovered, meaning the fishing enterprises pay every last dollar for all this. You could probably find this out using our friend Mr Google.

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    7. KHTAGH

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      As a person that will have this thing right outside my front door I'll let you in on a tib bit of information that the MSM are not telling you.

      Just for a little history, the very same people that organised this were the same people that had a fish oil business here in Tasmania & it ended up putting itself out of business by guess what, yep fished out the fishery.

      When the Sea Fish Tasmania originally organised this vessel it was considered that the current quota was insufficient to make it…

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    8. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to KHTAGH

      Distorting things a bit, no?

      "Highly sought after in Africa" - yes, fish in general (and oily fish such as these) is very healthy, and I don't believe we should begrudge them wanting such high-quality protein just because we don't want to nibble around the bones. Doesn't mean "highly-priced". So I guess Seafish can be accused of being a social do-gooder.

      Net isn't 600m wide - that's an error by a factor of about 10.

      Dead birds/bycatch from a different small trawler? Not sure what it has to do with the Abel Tasman. Probably a different fishing method. Mid-water trawls have *very* low bycatch.

      Yes, Seafish run a fish-oil business. No, they haven't destroyed the fish stock - it's the very same fish they are proposing to catch now. They'd be a bit foolish to bring in a trawler knowing there weren't any fish.

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    9. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Andy, The omega-3 miracle health scam was consigned to oblivion back in 2004 when the first big study came out, but scientists like to repeat stuff, just to be sure so they have .. same results .. http://t.co/5U9ea6uY http://t.co/nStIioIQ ... similarly with "high quality" protein, that's been known to be false for decades. Plant protein is fine. Consider this paper on malnutrition in developing countries ... http://bit.ly/PtZbLQ There isn't a single mention of protein in the entire document; because it isn't relevant. The main impact of animal protein sources in developing countries is from cattle fouling rivers and mucking up efforts at providing clean drinking water, not to mention eating crop stubble and allowing more erosion and reducing the productive capacity of the land.

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    10. KHTAGH

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Sorry Andy but you are wrong the net is a cup shape when it is deployed it opens up like a giant cup, have a look at the size (length of it the next time you see it on the telly) its length becomes its WIDTH when deployed & is pulled closed when landed. take it from someone who has actually been to sea, you don't know what you are talking about.
      PS they DESTROYED the oil fishery from over fishing (orange roughy) ask anyone down here in Tassie, oh & where do you live?

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    11. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to KHTAGH

      Dear KHTAGH

      The fish oil production at Triabunna was from small pelagics, not from Orange Roughy, which is a food fish more commonly used for fish fingers and the like. Go look it up - your ignorance is showing.

      You're misinformed on net shapes and sizes. Perhaps go look it up - this might be a good start http://www.afma.gov.au/resource-centre/teachers-and-students/about-fishing-methods-and-devices/trawl/midwater-trawl/

      Have you seen a mid-water trawl net? I have...

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    12. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      I didn't mention Omega-3.

      Fish is an excellent protein. Not sure what cattle fouling rivers have to do with this issue.

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  7. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    In all this public banging on about bycatch, there are two glaring issues about which nary a word has been uttered.

    1. Local depletion of fishing stocks. If having lots of little fishing boats all doing their own think is comparable to randomly selecting one tree out of every 25 in a 10,000 ha forest, then the Margiris is equivalent to clear-felling 400 ha.
    Whereas you get regrowth from surrounding vegetation in an otherwise relatively undisturbed forest, it takes considerable time for new growth on a denuded 400 ha block.

    2. If you reckon pelagic fish are an underutilised resource, try explaining it to all the higher predators that rely on them. In other words, if humans start exploiting a pelagic fishery, then quotas need to be reviewed for all other species in the same food chain.

    I've not heard a peep from anywhere in the Brains Trust about either of these issues, let alone in a Pollie Soundbite.

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    1. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to David Arthur

      Local depletion is a furphy. Small pelagics are *very* mobile, and local depletion will be filled remarkably quickly.

      The "food chain collapse" idea is a furphy. The TAC is set to 7% of the biomass (and the Margiris-related quota is only a portion of that). If the Margiris is dinged, then the quota can still be caught by other vessels Seafish buys or hires. 7% of a fast-growth species is very small. Even if there is some drastic effect on Jack Mackerel (which there couldn't be), no predator is solely dependent on one species - they will simply eat another.

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    2. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Quote..."Local depletion is a furphy. Small pelagics are *very* mobile, and local depletion will be filled remarkably quickly."

      Tell this to the mackeral populations off Chile and East Africa. Only someone living in denial of history would attempt to paint such a falsedom of mid trawl mantra!

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    3. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Thanks Andy.

      Do non-linear responses (eg collapse(s) of North Atlantic fisheries) count as "furphies" also?

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    4. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Thanks Andy, I'm reassured.

      Please comment on the statement of AFMA committee member Graham Pike (recreational fishers representative, I understand) to the effect that stock assessments are not so much 'good' as '10 years out of date' (letter published in AFR, 14 Sep 12).

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    5. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Gee Andy is that enough evidence to double a quota you reckon? The sampling must have been absolutely outstanding. I think we'd be looking for something a bit more significant than that.

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  8. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    By the way folks, bit of a history this boat -

    Used to be called "Atlantic Star" fishing the herring on the banks in the Atlantic. Now locals started getting stroppy because herring are a rather important prey species for cod and a whole swag of important commercial species - well to the extent there are any cod about at all any more.

    So increasing scrutiny and regulation saw the Atlantic Star shuffled off to Holland and rebirthed as Magiris in 1999. Then off to here as "Abel Tasman" purportedly based in Brisbane.

    Can't find where it was from then to now ... will keep looking.

    I always thought it was bad luck to change a boat's name. We'll see.

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    1. Wade Macdonald

      Technician

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      A common deceptive ploy used by too many of these ships unfortunately.

      Can't live with their own history and escape persecution for their acts of slaughter.

      Cheers

      Wade

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    2. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      So would you rather have the vessel here in a well-managed fishery that can sustain the catches and avoid/mitigate other environmental issues, or send it off to an unregulated fishery where it could cause damage?

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      This is one of the problems of having such mobile and efficient fishing operations Andy. There is no "code of ethics" guiding them - they will see no difference in fishing here or fishing in Vanuatu or the African coast - it's all just fish and cash-flow. And if they demolish a local fish stock in unregulated waters it's another potential market isn't it when they move off somewhere else.

      I think there really needs to be regulation of the industry globally rather than this Dutch auction of national regulation where poor countries with little else to flog are under massive pressure to let them in. It seems rather bizarre to me that such vessels will operate one way here because of our controls and the same vessel will behave totally differently elsewhere where they can get away with it despite the obvious implications and effects.

      Something like an international licensing system that ensures responsible practices despite or regardless of the national fishing regimes.

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    4. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I guess the ship owners would say they are just following whatever the local rules are...

      Although I agree with you, especially in the case of highly migratory tunas etc, I also doubt it will happen anytime soon. Something like a highly-politicised FAO trying to get an international treaty up? Good luck!

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    5. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Yep ... I won't be holding my breath.

      But that said there have been substantial improvements when it comes to western mining companies working in third world countries over the last decade apparently. Some - far from all - mining companies want to be seen as good corporate citizens and this involves a global approach to their global operations. Course it helps if the damage is visible - mud-filled toxic rivers snaking through pristine rainforest is not a good look - tends to get the miner…

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    6. Graham Mantle

      Would be if I could be (but retired)

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I don't know why I can't get to the current end of the conversation. This is as far as it will allow me to scroll.
      Peter, your comments about who or what urges governments to act don't hold water when even the current article starts with " thanks to public opposition to the super trawler." The media has also played up public pressure and given misplaced credit to Greenpeace, with whose whose cowboy antics I have no sympathy.
      I recognize, however, that the minister would consult his department's public service officials and lawyers ( one hopes).
      And if the matter in question is a breach of the quota allocation rules, why the need to change the law?

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    7. Graham Mantle

      Would be if I could be (but retired)

      In reply to Wade Macdonald

      WADE...Please DO NOT assume the authority to speak for the Australian People. You and a few noisy people don't want the trawler. But loud as your voices may be, you still don't represent the silent majority of Australians.

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  9. Simon Boag

    logged in via LinkedIn

    I am the EO for the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA). We welcome Colin’s article. Our Association’s strategy has been to build members and money, use these resources to change the thinking within our industry, do things like bird and seal avoidance better on the water and then communicate the sustainability of our 99 year old fishery.
    The SET fishery does not interact with any sea lions. Their distribution stops at KI. The GAB trawl fishery which runs to the west of KI…

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Simon Boag

      Way to go Simon.

      We have nothing to fear from engaging with "critics" ... it's how we learn to do things better in many cases.

      One of the important challenges facing the industry is the marketing of more sustainable, low impact operators - to identify operators using better techniques and so attract a premium for these products from more discerning consumers.

      Easier with tins but there's gotta be a way to distinguish product from best practice fishers. Nothing leaps to mind though. Smiling fish perhaps?

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    2. Graham Mantle

      Would be if I could be (but retired)

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      When Tony Burke spoke on Q&I in answer to questions about the super trawler, now the Abel Tasman, he was clear and logical about the government’s position. The Tasmanian company had a quota of 17,800 tons of mackerel (or similar) which they were entitled to catch There would be strict regulations concerning by-catch and especially in relation to seals and dolphins, to be enforced by a number of fisheries’ inspectors on board the vessel.. I couldn’t see a problem with this.

      Then the noisy minority…

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Graham Mantle

      Yes I think you are right Graham in that Burke's initial response - of letting the Magiris/Abel Tasman have a run and watch closely and gather some data was the right one - at the time. However, I think the issue has gone beyond the operation and impact of a large ship fishing for a low value stock and moved very quickly to the propriety and even the legality of Seafish's role in the quota decision.

      Once that comes up as an issue - currently being investigated by the Auditor General's office…

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    4. Colin Hunt

      Honorary Fellow in Economics at University of Queensland

      In reply to Simon Boag

      Simon, Glad to hear that you guys are really on to making the needed improvements. In respect to your claim that my my figures on mortality or catch are too high, I respond that I have used the data from official sources available and have referenced them in the article. You would need to query the authors of those official reports. I do acknowledge, however, that the sea lion problem is confined to fisheries in the SA zone.
      I take your word for the improvements in your fishery, but these need to be validated. Why not ask AFMA to put some observers on your boats and have an independent review of the results?
      Then we concerned individuals and the public can perhaps rest more easily.

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    5. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, aren't you drawing a bit of a long bow here? The interest was declared, it looks like, as it seems to be every time.

      Co-management almost automatically means dealing with conflicts of interest...

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    6. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Dunno about the ombudsman, but reading the meeting minutes the interest was well and truly declared, as it had been in every previous meeting, at least the handful I checked. Besides, quota-holdings are public, you'd think the committees would know who had quota/was fishing the stock, and the minutes are full of discussion that indicates the participants well and truly knew the fishermen went fishing.

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    7. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Doesn't look like it from the minutes Andy. But it does appear that the panel has fallen on its sword and now claims that the interest was declared but Seafish was permitted to particpate in the discussion and decision regardless. Further the Ombudsman has called into question the procedures employed with setting quotas across the board - not just on this issue of the Magiris/Abel Tasman.

      As I said in my initial comment above this is a real problem with industry managed regulatory frameworks…

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    8. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Did the fellas sitting at the table know that Seafish was bringing in a supertrawler with the capacity to grab a substantial part of the increased quota - even relying on the increase to be viable? That's the question.

      Anyway I don't want to charge, try and convict the bloke. I'll leave that to others.

      But he has not done the industry any favours.

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    9. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter,

      Not sure that is relevant. They own the quota - they have a right to fish it from a trawler or a canoe if they want. The financial interest is the quota...

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    10. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      One of my favourite books.

      But scarcely a trade association meeting. And those scientists, regulators, modellers etc aren't patsies.

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    11. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Andrew ( that sound maternal enough?) ...

      If a bloke comes into the room and says let's double the quota and oh yes I'm bringing in a supertrawler next week that can harvest pretty much the lot - should he get a vote?

      See when a panel like this is making a decision to double the quota it is based on an implicit continuation of existing effort - that increase might not be taken for years based on existing and gradually increasing effort.

      Was the panel given all the information it needed to make an informed decision. That's the real question. And that's why the whole thing has ground to a halt while this is sorted. Too smart by half I suspect. And he's done the industry a serious mischief.

      As to legality - we will see. But I don't think Mr Geen will be sleeping too well at the moment.

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    12. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Don't bank on that Andy. Looks like this time they've been taken for patsies (lovely word). I suspect they're not - hence this kerfuffle.

      I'm assuming you are a consulting to the fishing industry. I'd be thinking very carefully about the effect that this issue and conduct will have on the industry and its involvement in the regulatory framework.

      Seafish isn't the industry, and its interests are not identical to the industry's as a whole. Certainly not in this case. At the very least the industry should be looking to re-arrange its representation in future.

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    13. Simon Boag

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Colin Hunt

      Colin, great minds think alike. "Caring for our Country" have already funded the verification of the seabird management plans (i.e. offal management and physical mitigation) through AFMA's by-catch program. There have only been a few voyages completed. Sign up to the newsletter on simonboag@setfia.org.au (am I pushing that too hard) and we'll keep you updated. AFMA, like us, are briefing several environmental groups.

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