Visiting academic Dr Simon Allen, from Murdoch University’s Cetacean Research Unit, spoke to around 70 people about his work on protected species bycatch in trawlers at the Merimbula Big Game & Lakes Angling Club (MBGALAC) on Friday.
Dr Allen’s visit coincided with the return of the Geelong Star super-trawler.
“Pelagic or mid-water trawlers, like the Geelong Star, do not destroy habitat, but they are still non-selective and lead to the bycatch of non-target and protected species,” Dr Allen said.
“With such large nets operating over such large areas, there is a high level of uncertainty about whether or not the impacts of a factory/freezer trawler can be sustained by local marine mammal populations.”
Dr Allen said the long-term effects of such trawlers are unknown.
“The state of Australian commercial fisheries is not as great as what some governments and industry members might promote, but at least it is a lot better than that in many other parts of the world,” he said.
“However, this will change quite quickly if we continue to make the same mistakes that have been made elsewhere.
“We need to cherish what we’ve still got; and if we must continue large scale commercial fishing, then we need to use non-destructive and highly selective fishing methods to target the wildlife we want to eat, while at the same time avoiding endangered, threatened and protected species.”
It was reported last week that the Geelong Star had been fishing off Bermagui after the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF) advised them not to fish these areas.
A spokesperson for the Small Pelagic Fishery Industry Association (SPFIA) said the trawler’s operations have followed the “detail and spirit” of the agreement reached with recreational fishers on December 1 last year.
“The vessel arrived on the South Coast of NSW this week for the first time in months, and has seen only a few recreational fishing boats,” SPFIA chairman Grahame Turk said.
“If there is to be a major game fishing tournament off Bermagui on January 25, the Geelong Star will fish elsewhere in the week before and during the tournament,” he said.
MBGALAC’s Chris Young said the trawler had been spotted off the Far South Coast last week, but its current location is unknown.
“The Geelong Star was sighted last Wednesday, January 6, 16.7Nm off Tura Beach trawling where bait fish accumulate along the crest of the continental shelf,” Mr Young said.
“We do not know where the vessel is today as its location device has been switched off,” Mr Young said ahead of a visit to the club on Friday by AFMA CEO Dr James Findlay.