Report calls for supertrawler ban

Supertrawlers are at risk of irreparably damaging Australia’s marine ecosystems and must be permanently banned from the country’s waters, a new report from the Australian Marine Conservation Society has concluded.

The joint report from Save Our Marine Life and the Australian Conservation Society calls for the ban after research detailed the extent and impact of overfishing.

“What this report shows clearly is that we need a real and meaningful ban on supertrawlers in Australia’s vulnerable fisheries, and an urgent parliamentary inquiry into moves to attract foreign fishing vessels to Australia and then allow them in by reflagging them as Australian,” Adele Pedder, Save our Marine Life spokesperson said.

“These ships have the capacity to catch, process and store hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fish using one of the most indiscriminate methods you could think of. Supertrawlers are incompatible with everything we are striving for in our marine environment.”

Although supertrawlers of greater than 130 meters in length are currently banned from Australia waters, the report found that such laws impact just six vessels globally, while ignoring the 71 supertrawlers of between 95m and 130m.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Australia’s waters are of low biological productivity, making them especially vulnerable to overfishing;

  • There is growing interest from large foreign fishing vessels to access Australian waters as fish stocks decline elsewhere;

  • Negative impacts on coastal economies is a real risk, with knock on effects to tourism and recreational fishing;

  • The supertrawler threat comes as Australia’s network of marine parks was stripped of 40 million hectares of “no take” marine sanctuaries – the equivalent in area to losing every second national park in Australia;

  • Risk to protected species is proven, with the deaths of dolphins, albatross and seals as a result of the Geelong Star’s operations in Australian waters.

Report author and marine conservation expert Chris Smyth said: “Australia has not been immune to the impacts of industrial fishing, with overfishing and collapsed stocks, some of which are yet to recover. There now exists a new threat, with supertrawlers and other large fishing vessels roaming the oceans looking for fish, and Australian waters are now in their sights.

“Fishing regulations notionally prohibit the entry of foreign fishing vessels, but this has not stopped the approval of foreign supertrawlers to fish in Australian waters.”

As well as examining supertrawlers, the report looks at the impacts of large longline and “super-seine” vessels and their role in overfishing globally, and the risks of these foreign-owned fleets entering Australia’s fisheries.

The report The threat to Australia’s oceans from supertrawlers is available here.

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