Approval for mid-water pair trawling net fishing opens way for bigger vessels and unsustainable fishing off NSW coast

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 | Justin Field

The NSW Greens have condemned the recent decision by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to approve industrial-scale mid-water pair trawling in the Commonwealth Waters off the NSW coast.

The 18-month trial of mid-water pair trawling will exploit the Small Pelagic Fishery which covers Commonwealth Waters along the entire NSW coast.

The decision ignores serious community concerns including risks to threatened species, localised depletion of fish stock, and negative impacts on local recreational fishers and risks to fishing tourism. It also ignores the public submission process where the majority of more than 2000 submissions received opposed to mid-water pair trawling in the fishery.

NSW Greens marine environment and fisheries spokesperson Justin Field said the trial encourages further pushes from industry and the Federal Government for unsustainable industrial fishing in Australian waters.

"The mid-water pair trawling approval opens the door that bit further to unsustainable commercial fishing in Australian waters. The recent management of the fishery and the Geelong Star super-trawler debacle shows the Coalition Government can't be trusted to manage our fisheries sustainably," he said.

"AFMA is charged with looking after the sustainable management of fish resources in Commonwealth waters and they've got it completely wrong by allowing mid-water pair trawling.

"Pair trawling has been banned in some jurisdictions and is heavily criticised for the risk of catching high rates of marine mammals such as dolphins and seals.

"Regardless of the current conditions and existing small-scale plans for the method, you will inevitably see more and bigger vessels seeking to employ this sort of fishing. The trial will be watched closely by big players keen to exploit local fishing resources on the industrial-scale facilitated by pair trawling."

The trial approval comes at the same time AFMA has significantly increased the total allowable catch of two key species targeted in the Small Pelagic Fishery off the NSW coast.

The total allowable catch for Blue Mackerel has been increased by 460% and Sardines by more than 500% in just one year.

"Fishing communities along the NSW coast will find it hard to believe that you can increase the commercial allowable catch by 500% without having an impact on the health of local marine habitat and fish stocks," Mr Field said.

"This isn't about supplying high quality local seafood, this is about large scale industrial fishing to sell to the bait industry, the massive aquaculture industry and multinational 'health food' companies."

Explanation of mid-water pair trawling method from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:

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