35,000 Australians demand Government action to stop super trawler: Petition delivery to Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig
What, When and Where:
Wednesday 15 August, 9.30am-10am, Lawn outside the front of Parliament House, Canberra:
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, Nobby Clarke of the Tuna Club, Rebecca Hubbard, Oceans campaigner, Environment Tasmania and Greenpeace CEO David Ritter will free 35,000 paper fish from a net in a symbolic handover of the ‘Stop the Super trawler’ petition. The petition calls on Joe Ludwig to use his power to ban the FV Margiris super trawler from fishing in Australian waters before its pending arrival at the end of the month. Tasmanian senators and MPs will conduct a press conference with representatives from the ‘stop the super trawler’ alliance from 9.35 -9.50am.
Wednesday 15 August, 10.15-10.30am, Room MG63, Parliament House, Canberra:
The ‘stop the super trawler’ alliance delivers the 35,000-strong petition directly to Joe Ludwig. This will be followed by a press conference.
Senator the Hon. Joe Ludwig, Minister for Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry
Andrew Wilkie, Independent MP for Denison
Hon Sid Sidebottom MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Senator the Hon. Peter Whish Wilson
Neil (Nobby) Clarke. President of the Tuna Club Tasmania
David Ritter, Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO
Rebecca Hubbard, Oceans campaigner, Environment Tasmania
Tooni Mahto, Australian Marine Conservation Society
Wednesday 15 August, 9.30-9.35am: Andrew Wilkie and the ‘stop the super trawler’ alliance release 35,000 paper fish from a net to symbolise the signatories to the ‘Stop the Supertrawler’ petition, followed by a press conference.
10-10.15am: The ‘stop the super trawler’ alliance delivers the 35,000 strong petition directly to Joe Ludwig followed by a press conference.
‘Stop the Super trawler’ petition: Available at http://www.communityrun.org/petitions/stop-giant-fishing-trawler-in-tasmania/
Stop the Super Alliance is a coalition of 14 environment and fishing groups united to stop the super trawler FV Margiris fishing in Australian waters.
Marine Coordinator, Environment Tasmania
P: 03 6281 5102 | W: www.et.org.au | www.oceanplanet.org.au
Tasmania’s fishers are up in arms over the arrival of a Dutch super trawler, the FV Margiris. These boats are blamed around the world for overfishing and Tasmania’s anglers are convinced the super trawler will deplete local populations of fish and in doing so drive away the prized blue-fin tuna. Australia’s fishing regulator says the quota is based on sound science, and they say they’ll be able to effectively police the catch. So who’s right? Reporter: Wendy Carlisle
Wendy Carlisle: This week, the super trawler that’s got Tasmania’s fishing community up in arms.
Man: (To crowd) What we’ve got here today, ladies and gentlemen, is a very, very clear demonstration right across Tasmania. Four hundred boats in Hobart apparently, a similar number in Launceston… (Applause)
Wendy Carlisle: There was only one message from the thousands who gathered in Tasmania to protest against the super trawler.
Man: (To crowd) We’ve got loads to start fishing. Go home, you mongrel. (Applause)
Wendy Carlisle: According to these protesters, the villain in this piece is the Dutch-owned super trawler, the FV Margiris. It’s owned and operated by the Dutch company Parlevliet and Van der plas , who run one of the largest and most heavily subsidised fishing operations in the European Union.
I’m Wendy Carlisle and this is Background Briefing.
Man: (To crowd) I suspect the Devonport Port Authority would have some difficulty getting it in if we launched out there and showing the solidarity we’ve had today, isn’t it?
Wendy Carlisle: The 300 protesters who’d gathered at Devonport on Tasmania’s north coast had this to say:
Protester: Tell the Dutch to take their ship back home.
Protester: How’s this trawler going to get into the mouth of the Mersey River if we’re all out there fishing?
Wendy Carlisle: On a chilly Saturday morning last month, four separate protests were on foot—in Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie—at such short notice that turnouts were impressive.
Protester: My colleague in Launceston rang and he reckons there’s somewhere between three-and-a-half and four-and-a-half thousand people at the Silverdome in Launceston. Unbelievable! But what it has done, it’s given a clear demonstration to the politicians of Australia and in particular Joe Ludwig…
Wendy Carlisle: As the arrival of the Margiris looms, the protests have gathered momentum, starting first with Greenpeace, which blocked the trawler leaving its home port in Holland. Now the Greens and Andrew Wilkie have joined in, and a broad coalition of other groups, including the Sea Shepherd, have jumped on board. They’ve produced a video, which is now online.
Voiceover: (From video) This is a super trawler. It is 140 metres long, and it catches up to 250 tonnes of fish every day. Super trawlers are oversized fishing factories, notorious for wiping out local fish stocks and killing scores of other animals, like dolphins, seals, turtles and whales. The European super trawler fleet first fished out its own waters, then plundered the South Pacific fishery to collapse. It left empty seas and jobless fishermen in West Africa, and now it’s coming to Australia.
Wendy Carlisle: In recent weeks, a group called stopthetrawler.net has bought a full-page ad in The Australian. Its point was blunt and highly emotional. The super trawler Margiris loomed like a malevolent force out of right frame; lightening flashed ominously around her. The copy said 23,000 Australians had signed a petition alleging the trawler threatened local fisheries, seals and dolphins. The vital backstory, that super trawlers were behind the plunder of West African fisheries, where the Margiris has been fishing in recent years, was picked up by another campaign.
Voiceover: (From video) Greenpeace confronted the Margiris in Africa and now Senegal has banned all super trawlers. We stopped the Margiris leaving for Australia for six days and now we need you. But we don’t have much time. Tell the Gillard government to ban all super trawlers from Australian waters. No super trawlers: not here, not anywhere.
Wendy Carlisle: On 1 August, the Margiris left her port on the Ivory Coast. She’s turned off her satellite tracker so she can’t be detected, and according to her Australian connections, the Margiris is expected to arrive in Devonport within a week or so. Protesters in Devonport were getting ready.
Protester: A lot of phone calls at dawn and stuff like that… (To man) Yeah, take a bit of change out of there, cobber. There’s a ten down the bottom there, mate.
Man: Yeah, that’ll do.
Protester: Thank you very much… Good on you.
Wendy Carlisle: How much have you…? Oh, you’ve actually got a cheque in there as well.
Protester: Yeah. Yeah, somebody chucked a $50 cheque in there…
Wendy Carlisle: This was grassroots campaigning at its best, and what worried the fishers is the trawler’s state-of-the-art satellite tracking gear, her sonar, and the size of her nets. She’s seen as the Bismarck of the super trawler fleet.
Man: This ship, if you’ve ever seen one operate, it’s just that efficient. Where the small boats used to operate, go out, get their catch, then come back in and they’d lose track of the fish, this boat can spot fish and monitor them for 10 k’s. And they don’t come in, so they’ll just keep on following them around until they’ve got ‘em all.
Wendy Carlisle: Background Briefing counted 99 recreational boats down on Victoria Parade in Devonport that Saturday morning. They ranged from modest tinnies behind Utes to bigger, more expensive fishing boats, towed by equally big four-wheel drives. If you ever wanted to really appreciate why fishing is in the DNA of Tasmanians and why the protest was so big, this was the place to come.
Just trying to get their heads around the size of the super trawler, protesters didn’t need to look far. The Spirit of Tasmania, the car and passenger ferry that sails between Melbourne and Devonport, was sitting on the other side of the Mersey River.
Man: I’m not against anybody making a dollar, but you get a rough idea of how big it is; it’s not quite as big as the Spirit down there, but it’s bigger than the Searoad. That’s how big it is. It’s massive.
Wendy Carlisle: It isn’t just the size of the super trawler that upsets people; it’s the fact that it will be fishing for mackerel and redbait, and these fish, known as bait fish, are what the Bluefin tuna eat. And without bait fish, the Bluefin tuna go elsewhere, and the Bluefin tuna is what the recreational fishers are interested in.
(To fisher) Why have you come here today?
Man: To protest against the trawler.
Wendy Carlisle: Why?
Man: Why? Oh well, they’re going to clean all the bait fish out and that’s going to stop the bigger fish coming in to eat the bait fish, so you’re not going to want to do that, are you, really? That means, like, for the young bloke, who’s down the track, his fishing’s going to be gone, isn’t it?
Wendy Carlisle: The government says that the quota that the super trawler will take is sustainable.
Man: That’s crap. That’s crap.
Wendy Carlisle: What is sustainable, then?
Man: None. Send them away back to their own country. Why can’t they get it over there?
Wendy Carlisle: The recreational and game fishers don’t believe the science behind the quota. They say that the fishing regulator, AFMA’s record in managing the orange roughy and the other fish that are officially described as over-fished in Australian waters has been appalling.
Man: They’ve said that before, haven’t they? They’ve said it with orange roughy—they completely ruined that, scallops. Got no faith in the people that are running the show. That’s half the battle. You know, and with all the people that are turning up here, they’ve just got to listen to the people that are on the ground. And they just never know when to stop, and when they do make a decision to change things, it’s normally too late.
Wendy Carlisle: This is a story that AFMA has heard, too. Its management has been dealing with these criticisms for a long time and you get the sense talking to AFMA’s chief executive, Dr James Findlay, that he’s got no choice but to cop it sweet.
James Findlay: I think those concerns are very much in the past. AFMA didn’t do a great job through the ‘90s in looking after orange roughy, but our recent track history over the last ten years has been fantastic.
Wendy Carlisle: And to the question: is the quota for these fish based on good science, Dr James Findlay says yes, it is.
James Findlay: Your listeners should note the complete lack of science opposition to the data that we’ve used, and we haven’t had a single Australian fishery scientist, or anyone else in the world, criticise the data we’ve used and the approach that AFMA’s taken in setting the quotas from a scientific perspective.
Wendy Carlisle: The quota for these fish—the mackerel and the redbait—is worked out on egg count method, and based on this, scientists figure out how many fish there are and from that they work out a sustainable catch. Whether there are ten small trawlers chasing the fish or one big one is irrelevant, says Dr James Findlay. What counts is the scientific integrity of the quota.
James Findlay: Again, this is ten times one and one times ten problem. Ten smaller boats can do the same thing, or even two smaller boats in this case—this is not that large a boat in small pelagic fishing standards. And arguing against large boats…
Wendy Carlisle: This is not that large a boat? This is one of the biggest super trawlers in the world.
James Findlay: Yeah, but it’s not that much bigger than some of the other boats already operating in Australia, and this has been part of the hysteria around this boat. We have quotas in place; that controls the catch. Two boats operating under the same quotas will catch the same amount of fish as one boat. In terms of actual impact on the ecosystem, a dead fish is a dead fish and the ecosystem doesn’t know how many boats caught it. What I’m saying to you is that one boat, two boats, ten boats; the important thing is that quotas are limited. AFMA will strictly control the quotas and that’s really what’s important.
Wendy Carlisle: The Margiris has the rights to catch 50 per cent (xls file “AFMA Small Pelagic Fishery Quota) of the quota for these fish in commonwealth waters; that is, 18,000 tonnes of fish, or put another way, 18 million kilos of fish. That quota is held by Seafish Tasmania, which has entered into a joint venture with the Dutch fishing company Parlevliet and Van der plas .
Parlevliet and Van der plas supplies the trawler and Seafish Tasmania the fishing quota. Without a super trawler, the economies of scale needed to make this fishery viable just wouldn’t exist and that’s because the fish it catches are only worth a dollar a kilo. Factor in the cost of running a super trawler, and the profit from this fishery is marginal. Seafish Tasmania’s Gerry Geen:
Gerry Geen: This is another big part of the reason why you need good and effective technology to be able to actually fish this fishery in a viable way. You have to be efficient, you’re right. It is a relatively source of protein—a dollar a kilo is not far off the mark. So you have to catch it, freeze it, cold store it and freight it to the market for that price, so you really have to catch it in a very efficient manner.
Wendy Carlisle: The Margiris, at 142 metres long, is the second biggest super trawler in the world. She can freeze 6000 kilos of fish, in 20-kilo blocks, in her industrial freezers. Her nets are impressive. Their opening is 35 x 80 metres and they’re 300 metres long. And a giant hose sucks the fish out of the nets and into an on-board fish factory that automatically sorts, packs and freezes the fish. Gerry Geen:
Gerry Geen: But we need a boat of this size and this type because we need to freeze the fish at sea so that we can produce a fish that’s sufficient quality for human consumption. So by this kind of method, the fish gets caught quickly, chilled and then frozen. It gives a terrific, high quality product.
Wendy Carlisle: The Margiris can take her quota from anywhere inside commonwealth waters, and these stretch from Western Australia, around the Bight, and up to Queensland. The boat can stay out fishing for 60 days, until its freezers are full.
Gerry Geen: This fishery is huge. I mean, it goes from Queensland all the way around Tasmania to Western Australia. And to be able to fish beyond a very small radius of your home port, you need a vessel that can stay at sea and follow the fish. And this is the type of vessel that’s capable of doing that.
Wendy Carlisle: And that’s what’s got the locals worried. They’re talking about what they call, ‘localised depletion’, and by that they mean the fishing out of local stocks of these fish, which are the food for the Bluefin tuna.
Standing amongst the protesters in Burnie, two men from the local fishing club told me that the last time the redbait had been fished commercially—between 2000 and 2008—the Bluefin tuna disappeared.
Man: Our club went from in the mid-2000s to over 200 members and then when they started taking those pelagic species in the early 2000s, by the time we got to 2008 our club got down to I think it was about 80 members.
Man: Yeah, 70, 80.
Man: So it went from over 200 to 80-odd. And now finally the species has bred up after four or five years and the Bluefin are finally starting to come back, our club’s managed to get up to over 100 members. But you’ve only got to have one bad year, because we have unique fish down here—Bluefin—and you get people travelling from all round the world just to catch our Bluefin and Albacore. And you have one bad year and they say, ‘Oh, there’s no fish down in Tassie,’ and it just spreads like wildfire. They won’t come.
Wendy Carlisle: Without the bait fish, the game fishers, the recreational fishers and the ecotourism operators all feel the knock on. And that’s why the prospect of the super trawler has enraged people in Tasmania.
Man: It’s people on the mainland that actually come down in their boats and they actually leave their boats here for fishing season. They fly in and out of Tasmania to come and catch fish. Now, they’re going to stop coming. They are spending money on a whole different level to what we do. You know, airfares and flights…
Wendy Carlisle: But you’ve spent a lot of money on this boat, haven’t you?
Man: Oh, we have.
Wendy Carlisle: What have you spent? Take me through it.
Man: The boat’s worth 65,000. The amount of tackle I’d have at home in my shed would be within the 20–30,000s. You’ve got to have a four-wheel drive to tow it. So, you know, you’re looking at over $100,000 worth of expense before you actually go and catch a fish. And what do we catch the fish for, mate? Fun.
Wendy Carlisle: It’s the same story from the Tasmanian tuna fishing club. Their tag and release information from the same time shows that when the red bait was fished commercially, the Bluefin tuna disappeared. The president of the tuna club is Nobby Clark.
Nobby Clark: Our club experienced the problems of localised depletion… was when the said company ran a small operation chasing redbait between the years of 2002 and 2008. Within these years, from the first year of operation we noticed that our catch and release rates for Bluefin tuna throughout the season actually halved in the first year of their operations. And in the second year it halved again. Normally each year will be up around the high 30s, 40s—so capture, tag, releases for the year for Bluefin. Within three years of operation our capture, tag, releases went down to as low as one number for the 2005 season, which I believe was just after the height of the said company’s operations. So we noted a massive difference in the availability of Bluefin tuna in our area and we do directly put that back to the lack of bait that was there.
Wendy Carlisle: But the fishing regulator, AFMA, says the science simply does not support this hypothesis. They say the disappearance of the red bait had more to do with the absence of krill, which the red bait feed on, and warmer waters. Dr James Findlay:
James Findlay: Fishing of redbait hadn’t occurred in the ‘80s and ‘90s and again there was peaks and troughs in the tag and release program of the Tasmanian fishery. I actually spent four or five years myself fishing in that program and on a year-to-year basis the abundance of fish was quite variable. And that’s the nature of that end of the world. They’re at the end of the East Australian Current on the east coast of Tasmania and the availability of fish to them really will depend on oceanographic conditions at this stage far more than it will on the presence of commercial fishing for the small pelagic fish.
Wendy Carlisle: And redbait’s not the only thing Bluefin tuna eat. They also eat mackerel.
James Findlay: Recreational fishers are not fishing for redbait; they’re fishing for large tunas and sharks. And I really would ask them to look at the information about the oceanographic conditions and link that to their tag and release information more so than I’d look at the catch rates for redbait alone. Redbait were very rare in the stomach contents of those fish through the ‘80s and ‘90s and yet there were reasonably good numbers of fish tagged during that period, and yet red bait were rarely seen. It just doesn’t fit that this story’s… that this is a story about localised depletion.
Wendy Carlisle: The localised depletion story is not the only one being told about the Margiris. The other big story, and the broader geopolitical one, is the role that super trawlers from the European and Chinese fishing fleets have played in overfishing the waters off West Africa. This is an excerpt of a report by John Vidal of the Guardian newspaper, who went out to the West African fishing grounds in March.
John Vidal (archival): These are the fishing grounds of West Africa. Twenty years ago catches were abundant and there was food for millions of people. Countries like Senegal, Mauritania, Sierra Leone and Guinea could export all they could catch. Now they’re the hunting grounds of the world’s largest and most modern fishing fleets.
In one short visit to the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, we saw legal and illegal Chinese, Russian and Korean trawlers, as well as others from the Caribbean and Iceland. But the biggest fleet we found by far was the heavily subsidised European one, which takes hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fish a year to sell back to Africa and around the world. A quarter of all the fish caught today by Europe’s boats now come from the waters of developing countries.
All West Africa’s fishing grounds are fully or over-exploited, yet here in Mauritanian waters there are at least 50 giant factory trawlers. Each one can catch and process 250 tonnes of fish in a day.
Wendy Carlisle: The Margiris has been fishing off Mauritania in West Africa for a number of years. She’s part of the European fishing fleet, which is heavily subsidised by the EU. A staunch critic of these EU subsidies is Professor Daniel Pauly from the University of British Colombia’s Fishing Centre in Vancouver, Canada. He’s been watching the company, Parlevliet and Van der plas , who owns the Margiris.
Daniel Pauly: Now, they have been fishing off West Africa and in West Africa it’s very interesting, because they actually fish for Sardinella—this is a sardine-type thing—that they reduce the fishmeal to feed the pigs in Holland. And they fish and compete directly with the local fleet, which fish for human consumption. And there is all kind of pressure—not sufficient obviously—by the Dutch WWF and other organisations to get that vessel out of business, because they steal food from the mouth of people.
Wendy Carlisle: Back in Tasmania, the man who’s bringing the Margiris to Australia says he doesn’t buy the story that the super trawler fleets have pushed fisheries to the brink. From Seafish Tasmania, Gerry Geen:
Gerry Geen: I’ve heard a lot about that—fisheries collapsing in Europe and West Africa—and I find no evidence that that has actually occurred. So to my knowledge, the pelagic fisheries in these areas are quite robust. They’ve been fished by these kinds of vessels for the last 20 years.
Wendy Carlisle: Mauritania receives over €80-million per year from the EU in exchange for the right to send its super trawlers down. And from there, it’s a free-for-all. Professor Daniel Pauly:
Daniel Pauly: They say their fish isn’t depleted; the word has ceased to mean anything. Nobody knows how much fish is left in West Africa.
Wendy Carlisle: But there are claims though, aren’t there, that the fisheries are being plundered by these super trawlers? So are they being plundered?
Daniel Pauly: And that’s more likely to be the case, because when you have no restraint in terms of quota that are limiting and when the access agreements do not even specify how many tonnes you can catch, but specify only that you can have three boats fishing for, say, six months, for example, and then the European Union sent you the biggest trawler in the world of the Atlantic Dawn class, how can you fish sustainably? Do you understand what I’m saying? The agreements are being negotiated on per vessel, on per vessel basis, or sometimes per tonnage of vessel basis; not at all on a quota basis in West Africa.
Wendy Carlisle: Even if this were true, Gerry Geen says that’s not his problem. In Australia, the Margiris will be strictly regulated by Australian fisheries authorities.
Gerry Geen: This is really none of our business, because it’s only when the boat enters Australian waters that it really becomes our concern. We believe the benefits to Tasmania will be very substantial. Just last week we offered positions to 45 local people from Devonport to work on the vessel in the freezing and packing area. We’re in the process of finalising another ten positions for engineers, bosuns, net makers and cooks, and we think that will add about $4-million in wages to the local economy.
And top of that there is cold storage, freight, packaging; we’re negotiating with a local pallet manufacturer for 5000 wooden pallets to stack the fish on. And the list goes on and on: providoring the boat, and we’re also talking to the Australian Maritime College; they’re very keen to send their graduates on the vessel to finish their training and get their sea time. So there’s a lot of spin-off benefits that we think will be worth $10–15 million a year to the Tasmanian economy.
Wendy Carlisle: Gerry Geen says the joint venture is pretty simple in business terms.
Gerry Geen: It’s a joint venture arrangement. They’re bringing the boat and we’re bringing the quota. It’s pretty much as simple as that.
Wendy Carlisle: The Margiris will be registered in Australia.
Gerry Geen: The owner of the fishing trawler will be an Australian-registered company, not a European registered company.
Wendy Carlisle: Who will be the owner of this vessel in Australian waters, then?
Gerry Geen: Um, the name of the company is
Wendy Carlisle: But does that mean that you own the vessel then?
Gerry Geen: No, it means that this company, Seafish Tasmania Pelagic, which is a fully owned subsidiary of the Dutch company, owns the vessel.
Wendy Carlisle: The Dutch company, Parlevliet and Van der plas , is a key member of the Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association and between 1994 and 2006, this company received nearly €40-million in direct and indirect subsidies from the EU. The subsidy for the whole European fishing fleet was much more, estimated to be around half-a-billion euros. Professor Daniel Pauly says without these subsidies, the fleets couldn’t operate.
In absence of these subsidies that these trawlers receive, would they be operating?
Daniel Pauly: No. No, essentially these vessels all fish for subsidies. You cannot imagine how much subsidisation goes on in Europe and Europe is after Asia the major subsidiser.
Wendy Carlisle: But the key question is, have these enormous EU subsidies travelled with the Margiris into Australian waters. Gerry Geen:
Gerry Geen: I’m aware that there are EU subsidies available, but I’ve really no interest in their operations in Europe, because I’m only concerned with the operation of the Margiris in Australian waters and the operations of Parlevliet and Parlevliet and Van der plas in Europe or anywhere else is not my business.
Wendy Carlisle: Gerry Geen says he’s asked the specific question and the answer has been, ‘no.’
Gerry Geen: Look, I’m really not a forensic auditor, so I really can’t comment on this.
Wendy Carlisle: Well, all I’m asking you to say or to comment on whether or not you’ve investigated this question.
Gerry Geen: Um, I’ve asked the question and the response is, ‘No, there is no subsidy.’
Wendy Carlisle: And who have you asked the question to?
Gerry Geen: To our Dutch partners.
Wendy Carlisle: Late last year, Greenpeace in the Netherlands commissioned research from a group called Profundo into the subsidies that the EU had given members of the Freezer-trawler Association. The factual basis of the report has not been disputed. The study delved into the subsidies that each of the members of the Freezer-trawler Association received. One of the researchers, Petra Spaargaren, says she tracked down a €20-million subsidy to Parlevliet and Van der plas for the construction of a fish processing plant in Germany.
Petra Spaargaren: There’s also one processing plant in Germany, and this one also receives a lot of money—20.9 million. Also to support jobs and everything—there’s a lot of people working in the processing industry. So after they catch the fish they ship it to the processing in Germany and there they make it sellable just the next step.
Wendy Carlisle: Another big set of subsidies were the EU’s payments for fishing licences in West Africa.
Petra Spaargaren: The EU just pays a fixed amount per year to Mauritania and the other countries, just to have licences to fish there. I think in Mauritania they like to have 80-million per year, so it’s quite a lot, to have a lot of licences for their industry. So it’s not even the companies themselves who pay that for the licences, but the EU does. So that’s really an indirect kind of support, because if the EU wouldn’t do that then they couldn’t fish there, it’s not allowed.
Wendy Carlisle: But by far the biggest EU subsidies to the European fishing fleet are indirect, in the form of fuel subsidies. Profundo calculated that the Margiris had received between one and four million euros in indirect fuel subsidies, a fact not disputed by its owners.
Petra Spaargaren: No, they did not. Parlevliet and Van der plas came up with a statement based on our report, they just say, like, ‘We didn’t ask for this. Just go to the European Union; go to them and ask them. It’s not our fault that we get this support.’ But, yeah, they did not say that the numbers are not correct.
Wendy Carlisle: Profuno’s Petra Spaargaren. The question, do the EU’s subsidies travel through to the Margiris in Australia has also been asked by Australian fishing authorities. It’s not disputed that the profitability of Parlevliet and Van der plas has been propped up by the European taxpayer, but does that mean that without it the Margiris wouldn’t be heading to Australia? The answer to that question is a matter of debate.
As the Dutch researchers Profundo discovered, there’s not a lot of transparency in EU fishing subsidies, and the Australian fishing regulator has discovered the same problem. Dr James Findlay:
James Findlay: That information’s very hard to get; it’s not something that’s readily available. We haven’t seen any evidence to date so far that suggests that there are subsidies underpinning this boat during its operations in Australia.
Wendy Carlisle: Have you sought that information?
James Findlay: Us and everybody else. That information’s not readily available and if anyone has got evidence about subsidies about this boat and that they’ve been carried into the Australian operations then we’d be happy to receive it. We haven’t had anything to date and I don’t think we will find anything. That information’s not readily available.
Wendy Carlisle: Would you be concerned if it did carry EU fishing subsidies into Australian waters?
James Findlay: Look, I would be concerned. Australia has a strong position against subsidised fishing around the world. We don’t subsidise our fleet and this is something we’re opposed to.
Wendy Carlisle: And while Australia can rightly say that it has amongst the best-managed fisheries in the world, the real issue will be regulating the vessel to make sure it only takes the quota that it’s entitled to. A few months ago, New Zealand fishing authorities discovered that Korean super trawlers had taken more than their quota, and they were kicked out of the country. Professor Pauly says the real trick will be regulating these trawlers.
Daniel Pauly: The experience in New Zealand is telling in this regard. New Zealand thought they were very strict and they ended up having a fleet of charter vessels, from Korea it was, that busted the quota. It was also a conservative quota, because they could trick the observers. Catches were done while they were asleep or when they were even looking on the other side on the boat and they were looking at something, and therefore the quota could easily be surpassed. And in a huge vessel you can easily surpass the quota.
Wendy Carlisle: The Korean super trawlers were chartered by a local New Zealand company, and in one case the crew was charged, but the Korean skippers shot through and they were convicted in absentia. The other crew will face court in Christchurch later this month.
In Australia, there will be at least one AFMA observer on the Margiris for her first ten trips. The crew will be Australian; the skipper will be Dutch. Daniel Pauly says Australian regulators will have to be on the ball.
Daniel Pauly: Now, what it means to have giant trawlers of the sort that are coming to your water is that you cannot allow for mistakes, because if they catch a little bit more than they’re supposed to, which they want to do, then you are in trouble, because they have an enormous fishing capacity. This is essentially what the problem is with these monsters.
Wendy Carlisle: Professor Pauly has a prediction: the super trawler venture in Australia won’t last long.
Daniel Pauly: I predict Australia will throw them out, because they are used to practising all kinds of rule breaking and when they encounter serious stock assessment, serious quota reductions, serious observers, they will not want to stay.
Wendy Carlisle: But AFMA says the Australian observers will work hard and they won’t be fooled. Dr James Findlay:
James Findlay: An independent AFMA observer will be on the first ten trips of this boat and making sure that the boat’s operating in line with the regulations and that those regulations are effective.
Wendy Carlisle: So you’ll have one person on this boat?
James Findlay: Well, at this stage that’s the default requirement. We actually haven’t received an application from the boat yet and so of course haven’t received any fishing plans. We normally make our judgements on the actual level of observer coverage only when we’ve got a final fishing plan and we haven’t got that yet, so it’s very hard to say what the final level of coverage would be. But at least one observer will be on every one of the first ten trips.
Wendy Carlisle: Because this boat is potentially able to fish 24/7.
James Findlay: Well, our observers do work very hard and they’ll…
Wendy Carlisle: Yeah, but they’re not super-people, are they?
James Findlay: Well, but they can sleep while the net’s down and fishing. These nets are towed for long periods of time and so they can sleep in between hauls. And so it’s possible for one observer to monitor all the hauls, depending on the actual fishing pattern. As I said, we don’t know what that is yet.
Wendy Carlisle: Back down at the super trawler protest in Burnie, the fishing guys were telling stories about how trawlers rorted the rules. They didn’t think AFMA’s observer was going to be able to fully police the super trawler.
Man: And they’re going to put an observer on this boat.
Man: Yeah, 24 hours a day it works. He works a big shift.
Man: How does one person, though, stand up on a boat with 40 people on it and say, ‘You’re doing the wrong thing’? Because you know what they say? ‘You shut up or you’re off.’ A lot of accidents happen at sea.
Man: Yeah, you’d be shark bait.
Man: People threatened their lives.
Man: And these guys, they’re like a lot of fishermen who work real hard and that for a certain amount of time there’s a lot of gear going down the hooter to make ‘em go real hard for that amount of time.
Man: You’re a great spokesman, mate; it’s been really wonderful listening to you. You know, you do have the goods, you know?
Wendy Carlisle: Background Briefing’s coordinating producer is Linda McGinness. Research: Anna Whitfeld. Technical production: Michelle Goldsworthy. The executive producer is Chris Bullock and I’m Wendy Carlisle.
First published: 2012-08-14 07:24 PM
• Andrew Wilkie …
WHAT: Andrew Wilkie will join in the unveiling of a Stop the Super Trawler petition of 35,000 signatures and be available to discuss the Ombudsman’s formal investigation of the super trawler quota
WHERE: Front lawns, Parliament House, Canberra
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has welcomed the Commonwealth Ombudsman launching a formal investigation into the setting of the fishing quota relevant to the super trawler Margiris.
On 26 July and again on 3 August Mr Wilkie wrote to the Ombudsman with concerns about the legality of the process that determined the quota awarded to the vessel’s operator, Seafish Tasmania.
“The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s decision to move to a formal enquiry proves there is genuine uncertainty now over the legality of the process that determined the quota for the giant factory ship which is due in Tasmania any day,’’ Mr Wilkie said.
“The Ombudsman’s decision is further evidence the fishing quota for the Margiris is not worth the paper it’s written on and the quota needs to be ripped up and the whole assessment process started again.
“We need to get to the bottom of this before the Federal Government allows this factory ship to start fishing in Australian waters.
“If this quota is found to be illegal there’s no basis for the ship being here so the Margiris may as well turn around and go back to where it came from.’’
Mr Wilkie said a meeting yesterday morning with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority in Canberra had only heightened his concerns about the legality of the quota for the controversial ship.
“AFMA yesterday morning admitted that there were “defects” in the assessment process and acknowledged it needed to “tighten up” its processes,’’ Mr Wilkie said.
“With admissions like this it’s hard to have any confidence in the assessment process and no surprise the Commonwealth Ombudsman agrees an investigation is needed.’’
Mr Wilkie’s concerns focus on a teleconference of AFMA’s South East Management Advisory Committee on 26 March this year when a recommendation was finalised on the 2012/13 total allowable catch for the small pelagic fishery.
Seafish Tasmania’s Gerry Geen is a member of SEMAC and it’s noted in the Chair’s Summary of the teleconference that Mr Geen declared a “direct conflict of interest’’ in the setting of the fishing quota.
The Act required Mr Geen to absent himself from the meeting and the Committee to formally authorise him to remain. Neither occurred in this instance, although it should be emphasised it is AFMA’s, and not Mr Geen’s, behaviour that is in question.
In response to a request from the Ombudsman, AFMA wrote to Mr Wilkie on 1 August and argued that a literal reading of the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 was impractical and instead that a “`standing arrangement’’ was followed in dealing with Mr Geen’s conflict of interest.
“This is most worrying because AFMA must read the Act literally and comply with it because to do otherwise would be unlawful,’’ Mr Wilkie said.
• MEDIA RELEASE
Wednesday 15 August
Greens Senate motion to reverse supertrawler quota
Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, Greens spokesperson on Tasmanian marine issues, will today give notice of a motion in the Australian Senate to reverse the decision to lift the quota to enable the unprecedented introduction of the factory ship FV Margiris to the Small Pelagic Fishery.
The motion will examine the compliance of the AFMA led-process that led to this decision with the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 and the lack of a fisheries management plan for local depletion.
“Allowing the supertrawler to destroy Tasmanian and Australian fisheries would be a triumph of short-term thinking over a future that cares for people, communities and the environment that sustains us”. Australian Greens Senator, Peter Whish-Wilson said today.
“We’ve done a considerable amount of research and consultation with stakeholders and put a series of detailed questions on notice to Minister Ludwig and we’re convinced that the science doesn’t stack up.
“Localised depletion of fish stocks has not been addressed and Minister Ludwig is ducking his responsibilities on this issue.
“Today’s rally and delivery of a petition from 35,000 Australians demanding Government action to stop the super trawler clearly demonstrates the growing, unified opposition in Tasmania and across the nation from conservationists, fishers, and citizens concerned about the future of our fisheries and marine ecosystems to the unprecedented introduction of the factory ship FV Margiris to the Small Pelagic Fishery.” he concluded.
Senator Peter Whish-Wilson will be speaking at today’s rally and be available for comment.
Office of Senator Peter Whish-Wilson
GPO Box 158
Hobart TAS 7001
Ph 03 6224 3222
Fax 03 6224 2999
Senator Whish-Wilson’s protfolios include Tourism, Trade, Small Business and Competition Policy, Waste and Tasmanian Marine issues.
• GREENS MOVE TO OVERTURN FISHING QUOTA
With Liberal Support Could Be the Death-Knell for Super Trawler
Paul O’Halloran MP
Greens Member for Braddon
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
The Tasmanian Greens today welcomed moves by Senator Peter Whish-Wilson to move for the Senate to reverse the decision by the Australian Fishing Management Authority (AFMA) to lift the small pelagic fishery related quota which has enabled the proposed super trawler FV Margiris operation.
Greens Member for Braddon, Paul O’Halloran MP, said that this now provides Liberal Leader Will Hodgman with the opportunity to throw real and meaningful support behind the call to turn back the trawler.
“If Will Hodgman is genuine when he informed recent fishing group rallies that the State Liberals hold concerns over potential impacts of the super trawler, he will seize this opportunity and back up those words with action,” Mr O’Halloran said.
“Will Hodgman must now lobby his federal counterparts and call on them to support the Australian Greens’ motion in the Senate to overturn the raising of the fishing quota.”
“Senator Whish-Wilson’s motion seeks to examine the AFMA process that resulted in the quota being lifted, as well as the disturbing lack of a fisheries management plan to address potential local depletion.”
“Should the Greens’ motion be successful, the increased quota will be overturned. Given it has been stated repeatedly that the increased quota is necessary to make the super trawler operation viable, any decrease should see the plug pulled on this controversial operation.”
“So seize the opportunity Mr Hodgman, lobby your Federal colleagues to support the Greens’ motion, and turn back the trawler,” Mr O’Halloran said.
• Andrew Wilkie: Question Time for the PM, 2.15pm today:
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, will use Question Time to ask the Prime Minister the following question at approximately 2.15pm today in the House of Representatives.
“Prime Minister the Government is relying on the Australian Fisheries Management Authority in the super trawler Margiris matter.
But AFMA has admitted it didn’t take the Fisheries Administration Act literally when it decided the quota relevant to the vessel, meaning the quota was unlawfully determined and is now invalid.
Prime Minister as the Commonwealth Ombudsman is looking into these matters, will the Government hold off registering the super trawler until the Ombudsman has finalised her enquiries?’’
Visit http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/House_of_Representatives and click live in top left hand corner to watch.
• MARGIRIS PLANNING TO GIVE TASMANIA A WIDE BERTH?
Kim Booth MP
Greens Primary Industries Spokesperson
Thursday, 16 August 2012
The Tasmanian Greens today called on SeaFish Tasmania to confirm claims that the FV Margiris would not be docking in the Mersey River at Devonport.
Greens Primary Industries spokesperson Kim Booth said his office had received reliable advice that crew members for the super trawler would be ferried out to sea to board the ship.
Mr Booth said that he had also received information that the ship had been trawling as it moved down the already-depleted coastline of western Africa, and was planning to offload its catch in Western Australia.
“The fact that the Margiris is not even prepared to come near the Tasmanian coastline is a pretty clear sign that the company has given up trying to convince people that its operations will be sustainable,” said Mr Booth.
“They’ve chosen to dodge the Tasmanian people, fly under the radar, and push ahead with this plan to raid our fish stocks regardless of the consequences.”
“All the promises about the economic benefits the Margiris would bring to Devonport from refuelling and re-supplying now appear to be a lie.”
“This operation has been exposed for what it is, a greedy raid on our ocean stocks at the expense of future generations.”
• New Greens move against controversial super trawler
The Australian Greens are taking new action to back fishers in the Australian Senate after Labor and the Coalition refused to support a previous motion against the controversial super trawler FV Margiris.
The new motion would disallow the fishing quota granted by the government that enables the unprecedented introduction of the factory ship to the Small Pelagic Fishery, effectively halting the controversial super trawler.
“The super trawler poses grave risks to Tasmanian and Australian fisheries and the communities whose livelihoods depend on them, so we have to take what action we can to halt it,” Australian Greens spokesperson on Tasmanian marine issues, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, said today.
“My motion earlier today was a very reasonable call to reverse the quota decision until the government could demonstrate that they have fully examined and mitigated issues such as the impacts of localised depletion and ensuring all compliance data will be publically available, but both Labor and Coalition Senators voted it down.”
“The next step is to move to disallow the quota that the super trawler depends on to fish in Australian waters, and I call on both Labor and the Coalition to support that step when it comes to a vote on Monday.
“Yesterday’s rally and delivery of a petition from 35,000 Australians demanding Government action to stop the super trawler clearly demonstrates the growing, unified opposition in Tasmania and across the nation from conservationists, fishers, and citizens concerned about the future of our fisheries and marine ecosystems to the unprecedented introduction of the factory ship FV Margiris to the Small Pelagic Fishery,” he concluded.
The disallowance motion will be moved this coming Monday. If passed, the Government would then be able to introduce a new set of quotas quickly that could better reflect the state of fisheries science and the concerns of the community.