Monthly Archives: August 2012

Stop the Super Trawler Before It’s Too Late

Supertrawler FV Margiris

You may have seen my post in June about the Supertrawler Problem.  The world’s second largest fishing ship – a factory trawler named FV Margiris – with nets large enough to hold four jumbo jets, wants to fish in Australia.  It wants to catch 18,000 tonnes of baitfish a year… and who knows how many tonnes of bycatch.

This ship, and the Pelagic Freezer Trawlers fleet to which it belongs, has a seriously bad reputation. They have been implemented in major overfishing controversies in Europe, the South Pacific and Africa, to the extent that the Senagalese government actually revoked their fishing license and banned them from their waters earlier this year.

The quota assigned to the Margiris is under investigation as outdated, questionable and influenced by a conflict of interest.

80,000 people have signed a petition against the Supertrawler coming.  Numerous protests have taken place since the initial announcement of its coming.

And yet…

Today the FV Margiris docked into Port Lincoln in South Australia ready to start the process of being allowed to fish in Australian waters.  Public concern is beginning to make the politicians sit up and take notice, but will it be enough?

Sea of Controversy

The FV Margiris would be the largest ship ever to fish around Australia.  She needs a lot of fish in order to be economically viable.  (Fish which, by the way, will be frozen and sold back to the African nations whose waters have already been overfished by this and other ships in the pelagic freezer trawler fleet).  It is this highly inflated quota – twice as large as any previous total for the whole fishery – and the mammoth capability for destruction that has got Australians seething.

Fishermen around Tasmania are concerned that the Margiris will wipe out local populations and threaten their livelihoods.  Not only that, but the concentrated removal of baitfish from the ecosystem will have serious knock-on effects throughout the food chain.  They are a critical food source for larger, more valuable commercial species, as well as threatened marine species such as dolphins and seals.

Did I mention bycatch?  With its 600m, 9,500 tonne capacity net, the Margiris is a death trap for any number of protected and endangered species.  Seabirds, seals, dolphins, turtles, sharks…  All are at risk of death if they get in the way of this giant ‘vacuum cleaner’.  There is also clear evidence that escape hatches set in the nets don’t work, because dolphins don’t like being forced into the small ends of the nets.

Dead dolphins falling out of super trawler net. Photo taken by researchers on board Dutch super trawlers while conducting peer-reviewed studies and given to Greenpeace

What About the Science?

The pro-supertrawler groups say that the science by which the baitfish quota was determined is sound, and that they don’t know what all the fuss is about.  But opponents say the data and method used for the quota is outdated.  The jack mackerel quota is based on egg surveys which are used to estimate the size of spawning stocks.  It was doubled to 10,000 tonnes based on research conducted in 2002-04, and published last year.  But chief executive of Tasmanian Association for Recreational Fishing, Mark Nikolai, said there was insufficient data on the species movements, stock numbers for local populations or the species’ ability to replenish its stocks when fished.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has also been accused of ‘Japanese scientific whaling’-style tactics in its research excuse for the quota increase, and Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has launched an attack on the credibility of AFMA’s quota setting process itself, which the Commonwealth Ombudsman is investigating.  Mr Wilkie says the quota “is not worth the paper it’s written on” because of the presence of SeaFish Tasmania’s director Gary Geen during quota-setting advisory meetings.  AFMA admitted it does not follow the Fisheries Administration Act literally, whilst Mr Wilkie has also found that concerns from members of another AFMA committee key to the quota decision were not represented or recorded.

Protests and Politics

Human Message in Fremantle. Photo: Jeneta Enevoldson, The Wilderness SocietyI personally took part in a rally in Fremantle last weekend against the Supertrawler. Three hundred people formed a human message in outrage at this icon of overfishing and destruction.  Hundreds of people in boats protested in Tasmania’s Derwent River earlier this month.  The message is getting louder.

Greenpeace was there to try to stop the Margiris from entering Port Lincoln today.  The message is coming through clearly.

The federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, is said to be seeking advice about whether he has the power to prevent or restrict the vessel under environmental law.

Labor Member for Fremantle, Melissa Parke, said today that she has very serious concerns about the impact of ships like the Margiris, and wants to introduce a private members bill aimed at stopping super trawlers from fishing in Australian waters.  She says it is the last thing needed when the Federal Government has put in place a network of marine sanctuaries.

Meanwhile, Port Lincoln’s mayor Bruce Green is one of the only people who seem unconcerned.  He has been backed up by David Ellis from the local tuna industry, who said, “This vessel is fishing on behalf of an Australian company – I believe it is welcome here.”  It may be ‘welcome’ in Port Lincoln whilst the Margiris applies to change its flag to Australian in order to acquire a fishing licence, but it is probably the only port from WA to NSW where such a thing could be said.

The Federal government has not yet given final approval for the Margiris to fish in Australian waters, but the decision could be only days away.

Please take action. Sign the petition against the Supertrawler and show the government that we do not want these kinds of ships in Australia.

CCWA action page:

Greenpeace petition:

CommunityRun petition:

Read more:

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Lobby Group RecFishWest Caught Out On Misleading And Alarmist Anti-Marine Park Fear Campaign

Thankfully there is a voice of reason amongst the overblown, alarmist and unreasonable campaign against marine parks.

The Happy Squid Blog

ABC today revealed that there are internal tensions in the recreational fishing community about the extent to which the current “Keep Australia Fishing” fear campaign against new marine parks has sought to misrepresent the truth.

Listen to the story or read the transcript here.

I’ve had a look online and found the documents referred to in the story, minutes of the Australian Angling Association meeting where Recfishwest says in its official report to the association:

Most articles and media statements are misleading, inaccurate, alarmist, mischievous, or aimed at stirring up people. Sure there are suspect political reasons for some decisions, and some are not supported by sound science aimed at the real threats, however talking of “vast areas locked away from recreational fishermen” is simply wrong and alarmist. 


The map tells a story. Look at the map online and you be the judge. Do the white areas deserve…

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The Sound of Blogging

This is the first time I’ve written for the weekly writing challenge. I’m surrounded by silence, by the sound of my neurons firing frantically as I try to figure out what this article is going to be.

Actually, I lied. It’s not silence. There is sound all around me. My computer is humming softly to itself, occasionally muttering and flickering its lights. The speakers are emitting white, static-y sound. But apart from the tapping of the keyboard keys, my desk is quieter than the one next to me. You can hear the sound of that computer anywhere in the house. I blame the fan. And the fact that it’s a boy’s computer with blue internal lights.  Machines have personality and that one’s is loud.

The rush hour cars are illegally speeding by past my front window. That’s another sound that doesn’t often cease; it’s become background to me. The fridge is humming electronically. Across the road is a dog behind a fence that will bark at anything, especially cars. Do dogs see colour? I wonder if across-the-road-behind-the-fence dog has a favourite car colour, and whether he/she barks more or less often at those. I always point out a VW camper van (you know, the ones the hippies love) whenever I see one. If I was a dog I’d be barking.

Here comes the evening again. It must be getting to dusk now because I just heard an insect croaking outside. Definitely croaking, rather than singing, or chirping, or another bright and happy sound. This insect doesn’t sound bright and happy. Perhaps he’s as sick of the barking as  I am. Or maybe in his world, the ideal mate is one that loves emos, and dark mysterious music of the night.

Hmmm. All of these are definitely sounds, but as I write it does feel that I am surrounded by silence. Or rather, a lack of people-sound. No voices raised in banter or questions asked about how your day went. No walking-around-the-house, eating-last-night’s-cold-pizza, switching-on-the-tv-and-lazing-on-the-couch sounds. No music, that fundamental instrument of communication, relaxation and social connection. No-one else is here, and the lack of human sound is bringing that home to me.

Sometimes I’ll write my blog with music on, sometimes without. The radio, a new album, YouTube, a random tune hummed aloud. Sometimes my better half will be playing games on the computer next to me, or practising guitar, or suggesting cool articles to read. I almost always blog from home, usually in the evening, and whether or not he’s here right there and then he influences me. I’m tuned in to what he’s doing, wherever he is in the house. Or I’m listening out for the car to pull into the garage and the front door to open with a swish of the screen and a click of the key.

But my better half isn’t home at the moment. He’s gone away for work for three months. And without him here, my world is a much, much quieter place. I’m not sure whether I can concentrate better with or without the sound of him, and the sounds he brings into my world. The house is quiet without the chatter of two people who have nothing and everything to say to each other, who just want to hear another person’s voice, who are happy just to be in each others’ presence, whatever we’re doing. I don’t even have any pets to harass for love, unless you count the houseplant that hasn’t quite died over winter.

Some people say sound is therapeutic. Even necessary. It’s certainly an important facet of everyday life that gives us our multi-layered view of our environment. I’m glad that I’m not deaf, but I know that ordinarily I miss out on a lot of sounds because my brain just doesn’t process it all. It doesn’t need to. But this lack of, shall we say, noise, is a little disconcerting. I’m wearing a cloak of concentration to try to block out the environment, to block out the thought of noise, of the soft sound of feet padding up behind me, of how much I miss it. I don’t know how long I can go without having to turn on something louder than the mechanical hummings of the computers.

That emo insect is still croaking his song. Persistent little guy. Perhaps I can turn this into a Little Mermaid moment and gather all the animals into a singing number. Not a large orchestra or anything, but I guess the song would be “White Noise”.




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