The super-trawler Margiris should be banned from Australian waters.
Will it boost Australia's fishing industry and help feed a hungry world? Or will the super trawler Margiris devastate fisheries and the marine environment?
The largest fishing trawler ever to be used in Australian waters has arrived and is preparing to start sweeping the seas for small pelagic fish such as redbait, jack mackerel and blue mackerel.
The trawler has been given a catch quota of 18,000 tonnes for 2012-13 by Seafish Tasmania through the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. The fishery extends from Tasmania to Western Australia and Queensland.
The fish caught by the Margiris will be sold to West Africa for human consumption and it is expected that some fish will also be sold to the Asian markets.
While the Tasmanian Parliament has passed a motion opposing the super trawler until it can be proved it is safe, the Federal Parliament Tasmanian Labor and Liberal senators are rejecting a Greens motion to block all quotas in the fishery. Seafish Tasmania, the company behind the trawler, is still confident the fishing will go ahead.
Protests have been held across Tasmania in opposition to the super trawler fishing in Commonwealth waters. Overall the trawler seems to have very little support from the Tasmanian public and Parliament.
Federal Environment Monister Tony Burke said he could use his powers to ban a controversial super-trawler if it poses a big enough threat to marine life. Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig holds responsibility for the super-trawler Margiris but Mr Burke says he could override a decision if scientific advice shows it could result in a major environmental impact.
Conservation actvists are petitioning Mr Ludwig and Mr Burke to refuse the super-trawler Margiris access to Australian fisheries.
There are some very strong views on this issue in the community, but as always, there are arguments on both sides. What's the truth - or rather, whats the collective wisdom?
Arguments For Banning
It will devastate fish stocks by overfishing
The super trawler will devastate fish stocks by overfishing. The approved quota for the super trawler is 18,000 tonnes but critics maintain that adherence to these quotas cannot be verified. The quota has not been broken down into smaller limits for specific areas, meaning the trawler could overfish in the richest fisheries. Overfishing by trawlers will affect the local fishing industry and recreational fishing.
It will affect key species in the food chain
Redbait, jack mackerel and blue mackerel, are key species in the food chain. These species feed predator species such as bottlenose dolphins, Australian fur seals, sea birds, sharks and other large fish.
It will result in by-catch
By-catch is unwanted marine creatures that become caught in nets while fishing for another species. The size of the nets used by super-trawlers can result in the by-catch of non-target marine animals such as dolphins, seals and birds.
The stock assessments are out-dated
The stock assessments are based on one or two years sampling, which are up to eight years old, meaning they are too old to ensure an accurate estimate of fish numbers and how these change over time. Blue mackerel were last surveyed in 2004, redbait in 2005 and 2006 and jack mackerel in 2003.
Arguments Against Banning
It will benefit Australia’s economy
The super trawler has already employed 45 Australians and provisions used on the trawler will be bought from Australian businesses. This includes food, fuel, freight and packaging, the costs of which are between 10-15 million dollars a year.
It will allow Australia to compete in a global market
The super-trawler will help to create a new fishing industry that will enable Australia to compete more effectively in global markets.
We’re morally obliged to help feed the world
We have an international moral obligation to utilize our resources effectively and sustainably. The super-trawler’s target market is West Africa, which does not have access to this seafood.
It enables better fisheries research
The size of the boat means it can travel long distances and the scale it operates on means it can cover the cost of research. Better research means fishers can fish more sustainably.
- Margiris Super Trawler - Destructive or Sustainable? Balanced debate both for and against the trawler
- Stop the Super Trawler Anti-trawler lobby group website
- Seafish Tasmania Official site of the company behind the super trawler
- Super Trawler FAQs from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority
- Science doesn't support the super trawler - article on The Conversation
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