A SENATE report released last week has recommended supertrawlers be kicked out of Australian waters.
But before conservationists start cracking open the champagne, the report is unlikely to move the Turnbull government, which supports factory trawlers having access to Australia’s remote small pelagic fishery.
The report found that while the supertrawler Geelong Star operated in Australian waters during 2015/16, 83 protected species were caught up in its giant nets and perished, including 47 seals, 9 dolphins, 11 albatrosses and 16 mako sharks.
Another 17 were released after being found alive, including a whale shark which caused a national storm after a crew member leaked images of it being hauled onto the ship.
“Avoiding mortalities of protected species and the bycatch of other species, including species highly valued by other fishing interests, is impossible,” the Labor and Greens-heavy Senate committee found.
The committee also slammed the secrecy around supertrawlers, saying the public had the right to know where protected species were being killed, but this was withheld because of commercial confidentiality.
“When information about the Geelong Star is released, it is also difficult for the public to trust it,” the report found.
“As the Australian Fisheries Management Authority acknowledged, the industry has spread false information about incidents involving the vessel.”
But a dissenting report from Coalition senators, including WA’s Chris Back, says the Geelong Star is the most heavily regulated and closely monitored fishing vessel in Australian waters and the country’s quota system had ensured no fishery was being overfished.
“On-board processing and freezing capability optimises the quality and therefore the value of the fish product, allowing it to be used for human consumption rather than lower value uses such as fish meal,” said the dissenting report.
The Geelong Star left for South Africa earlier this month, and having been re-flagged on its departure will not be able to fish in Australian waters.