United in the face of super trawl

IN WHAT could be deemed an unholy alliance, environmental and recreational fishing groups have joined forces to oppose the massive factory fishing ship steaming for Australian waters.

IN WHAT could be deemed an unholy alliance, environmental and recreational fishing groups have joined forces to oppose the massive factory fishing ship steaming for Australian waters.

Foreign-owned factory ships have long put fear in the hearts of everyone with an interest in the marine ecosystem. Their extracting capabilities can pull more fish from the water than nature can replace. Think fish mining.

In 2004, the 104-metre Veronica super trawler tried to pillage jack mackerel stocks in Australian waters before it was scuttled. It could catch the equivalent of three jumbo jets of fish with each scoop of its nets.

In 2008, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority approved a three-weak fishing trial in Eden by the Captain MJ Souza, a 68-metre New Zealand-owned vessel. It used its helicopter and chartered light planes to find the fish and net thousands of tonnes. But this is small fry compared with what could be.

The 142-metre Dutch-owned super fish factory FV Margiris has its sights set on Australian waters. The capabilities of the second-largest super trawler in the world have not been seen in Australian waters.

Its targets - jack, blue and horse (slimy) mackerel and red bait - will be frozen in blocks and exported. The ruse is the fish are "destined as food for impoverished Africa", but the legacy is a damaged food chain.

Remove the small baitfish and the predators hightail it to other waters. Eventually, fisheries collapse and oceans become deserts.

More than 21,000 people have signed a petition at OurSay.org calling for a halt to the Margiris.

The trawler has applied to be flagged Australian but has not yet received approval. It seeks to fulfil Seafish Tasmania's audacious small-fish catch quotas reported to be 175,000 tonnes a year.

Five delegates from environment and recreational fishing groups held an urgent meeting with the Fisheries Minister, Joe Ludwig, in Sydney last week. But his response suggests everyone needs to do more to stop the super trawler in its tracks.

Meantime, with a maritime alert issued for strong winds and high seas, you'll need to stay inshore to snag a feed these next few days.

Hawkesbury guide Ron Osman cleaned up on bream and luderick at Flint and Steel on his last outing. Aussie salmon schools and some big tailor to 45 centimetres are across Broken Bay.

Small trevally are throughout just about every estuary, but the big catch is the tasty John Dory. School jewfish are being taken around upstream bridges and deep holes, while squid are staking out the kelp beds.

Yet the southern bluefin tuna specimens to better than 100 kilograms remain the highlight of this winter thus far. That said, some good friends on the Northern Peninsula say the snapper season is heading the same memorable way.

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