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Sunday, 17 June 2012

South EastManagement Advisory Committee

(South East MAC)

Monday 26th March 2012

The MAC noted that SPF RAG recommendation to increase the Jack Mackerel (east) RBC from 5,000 tonnes to 10,600 tonnes was subject to conditional support from the RAG’s conservation member and the RAG’s recreational member.  The AFMA paper before the MAC and submissions from RAG members indicated that the RAG meeting record was in dispute in relation to the way this conditional support was recorded.
The MAC established that the application of the meta-rule to increase the RBC was consistent with the SPF Harvest Strategy and noted that Seafish Tasmania Pty Ltd had submitted a research plan in line with the requirements for the Tier 2 meta-rule. The MAC welcomed input from Mr Geen during the discussion (mostly background) and noted that he, in keeping with a prior commitment to the Chair, did not contribute to the forming of the TAC recommendation for Jack Mackerel (east).
Some members of the MAC noted concerns about the effect of the increase in the TAC in relation to heightened risks of localised depletion, trophic impacts and by extension possible impacts on other users of the resource. The MAC’s understanding was that, while the RAG members who opposed the increase were concerned about short term impacts, their main concerns were:
     that the current Harvest Strategy wasn’t sufficiently tight regarding the obligation on industry to conduct additional Daily Egg Production Method (DEPM) surveys and to collect additional biological data;
     that greater specificity was needed in relation to decision rules in relation to outcomes of DEPM surveys; and
      that greater specificity was also needed in regard to gathering and assessing information to detect evidence of localised depletion and trophic impacts and trigger management responses.
Some members of the MAC also noted concerns in relation to the proposed introduction of a factory freezer vessel.  The MAC resolved that this was outside the scope of the advice being requested but was prepared to provide advice if and when asked.

The Committee was cognisant that its role did not extend to reopening RAG discussions but, noting concerns raised in relation to the RAG process, attempted to work through the concerns that had been raised in the context of AFMA’s legislative objectives. These are addressed under a series of sub-headings.

Localised Depletion
A number of South East MAC members expressed concern over localised depletion and noted that this could have ecological impacts but also impact on the ability of other sectors to effectively access the resource (state fisheries, recreational fishers chasing bait) and indirectly on the game fishing and charter sectors by reducing the amount of baitfish available to tunas and marlins etc.
The MAC accepted advice from the scientific invited participant that commercial fishing operations were likely to cause localised depletion in most fisheries. The scientific participant added that given the mobile nature of small pelagic species any localised reductions in abundance were likely to be less persistent in comparison to more sedentary species. The MAC noted that most Harvest Strategies for Commonwealth fisheries did not take into account localised depletion.
The MAC noted industry experience that fishing for small pelagic species to date had been largely confined to waters near processing facilities which had the potential to lead to large catches from a relatively small area. By comparison a freezer vessel could range more widely as the challenge of refrigerating catch promptly is mainly a matter of onboard management. The Committee noted that for conventional vessels the product quality is influenced by the distance operations are from port and consequently the time required to steam to a processing facility and unload the catch.
The MAC was comfortable supporting the proposed TAC with respect to risks of localised depletion given the species is pelagic coupled with the low exploitation rate and scientific advice that the increase did not represent a long term risk to the broader stock or to specific areas in the fishery.
Some members of the MAC indicated concern about the potential for localised depletion given that some stocks were shared with the states and the recreational sector and that it could also exacerbate any food chain issues for ecologically related species.
The Committee supported relaying these concerns to the Commission and suggests that the pending review of the SPF Harvest Strategy will provide an opportunity to consider the incorporation of monitoring mechanisms to deliver information which could meaningfully assess any implications to the stock arising from any localised depletion detected. This might also be augmented with decision rules to activate management responses.
The MAC welcomed industry preparedness to take on these concerns and work with AFMA to develop strategies to mitigate against any concentration of fishing effort that might give rise to significant localised depletion.  

Trophic impacts
The MAC accepted advice from the SPF RAG Chair that the Tier 2 exploitation rate (and associated RBCs) were highly precautionary with respect to trophic impacts. The MAC also noted that the SPF Harvest Strategy Settings were conservative with respect to the findings of an independent review into the impacts of fishing low forage fish species on marine ecosystems1.
The Committee recognised that concerns about trophic impacts were intertwined with localised depletion because the traditional Jack Mackerel fishery was prosecuted in waters where significant numbers of seabirds and marine mammals forage including, at times, animals from breeding colonies and rookeries.
Some members of the Committee also supported relaying concerns over trophic impacts to the Commission and suggested that AFMA again use the review of the SPF Harvest Strategy and research plan to improve the SPF’s ability to inform and respond to the possibility of significant trophic impacts. 

Relevance of factory freezer vessels to TACs
The MAC noted some concerns raised in relation to the proposed TAC for Jack Mackerel (east) suggested that a ‘super trawler’ might also have differential impacts on the stock and ecosystem.
The MAC endorsed a view expressed by the GAB invited participant that (in a ITQ fishery) the setting of TACs should be a completely separate issue from a vessel approval processes and that TACs should be based on the best available stock assessment/scientific information considered in terms of the relevant harvest strategy.
In this context, the MAC agreed the potential for a freezer vessel to enter the fishery would require a separate process for consultation and engagement with stakeholders.  The GAB invited participant sought clarification that any operation to mid-water trawl in the GABTF must be accompanied by the historical and existing requirement that a GABTF Boat SFR must also be assigned to the operation, to avoid any redistribution of wealth issues.
The MAC supported this view noting that in a generic context processing at sea was considered to be the most economically efficient way of utilising quota for small pelagic fish species. Members also noted advice from industry that these vessels generally deployed similar sized trawl gear to large wet boats and their ability to fish was moderated by their processing capacity. Members recalled earlier advice that suggested freezer vessels would be able to range more widely than the large wet boat mid-water trawlers previously deployed in the fishery and that as a consequence the likelihood of localised depletion might be reduced.
The MAC considered that based on the information available that factory vessel operations would not generate any differential impacts above that of wet boats taking similar catches.
The MAC was comfortable that AFMA had the tools and experience to successfully to manage processing at sea in the SPF.

"However Australian unions are supporting the trawler because the majority of crew will be from Tasmania and the Federal Government says vigorous checks will be applied to its catch rates.

The House of Reps has just passed a swag of shipping reform acts. If this mega-trawler is registered on the Australian second register, provided they employ 2 senior Australian officers, the rest of the crew can be from a other nations and be paid at comparable world rates, the latest published ITF figures are about US$ 400 a month, US$3.75 an hour for overtime and 2 days leave for each month served. So there will be virtually NO Australian employment on this ship. as the ship is a floating fish processing factory, there will be nothing processed on our shores either.


  1. Which unions support this? Where is avenue of protest e.g: petition to sign ,harsh letter to ministers address....Union secretary etc.

  2. The article says Australian unions so I assume, if it’s correct its more than one union.

    If you want to contact the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (Tony Burke) or the Senator for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Joe Ludwig) you can find all the information on a previous blog update titled “Contacting Senators and Members”

    Hope that helps

  3. Sorry but i don't believe there is any room for these large factory ships here. Just imagine the outcry if Australia sent such a ship to trawl waters off say Japan.

  4. The goverment is shutting down the whole Coral sea to rec fisherman yet sending Super Trawlers into Tassie what drugs are they on.