JUNE 6, 2014

Topics: Meridian-1 factory freezer trawler


DAKIS: (inaudible) to fish for Blue Grenadier off Tasmania's West Coast over a 49 day quota period. Conservationist have raised concern over the scale of the proposal given their successful campaign against the FV Margiris and the temporary ban on super trawlers. But the Federal Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck, is defending the application. Good afternoon Senator Colbeck.

COLBECK: Good afternoon, Sally.

DAKIS: Let's put it into some sort of context in terms of the scale of what is being suggested, the Meridian-1 is 104 meters long, it is a factory freezer trawler, but how does this compare to the FV Margiris which was 142 meters long?

COLBECK: I think you've basically given the numbers there that indicate the differences in scale. They're similar types of vessels, they're both factory freezer trawlers, but I think the difference in this particular circumstance that listeners need to understand and should understand is that the method for fishing in Blue Grenadier fishery off the West Coast of Tasmania has been going on for many years using the exactly same methods with factory freezer trawlers. So there's no change in the method of fishing, the only difference is in the capacity of the vessel that's accessing the fishery in terms of its physical capacity to store and process fish.

DAKIS: So how (inaudible) is that capacity likely to increase if this is approved?

COLBECK: My understanding is the previous vessel in the fishery was about 87 metres long, so slightly shorter than this one, with a slightly smaller capacity. So that is the basic difference, it's a slightly larger vessel this time around but they're using exactly the same fishing methods that have been used for many years. I think Petuna Sealord, or Petuna as their various incarnations have been, have had four different vessels in this fishery over the time that they've been accessing it.

The Meridian has actually been fishing in New Zealand waters for about 20 years in their Hoki fishery, which is the New Zealand name for Blue Grenadier, which is actually a MSC certified fishery. So it is a well understood fishery and I know that Petuna are actually going through the process of having the Blue Grenadier fishery in Australia MSC certified as well.

DAKIS: So given the concern the community has expressed over the size of the trawler and the fact there is a temporary ban on super trawlers that are over 130 meters long, how confident can you be in terms of reassuring the community about these larger fishing vessels?

COLBECK: Well the important thing to remember is that our fisheries in Australia are managed by quotas, so the size of the vessel really doesn't matter in that context because you are limited to how much fish you can take by the actual quota that is available for fishing. That operates in this fishery as well as it did in the small pelagic fishery that we talked about during the discussion around the Margiris.

This fishery has been accessed in this way for many, many years now and there is absolutely no change to the method of fishing. The only issue is a slightly larger vessel with a slightly larger capacity in respect of its processing capacity and storage capacity.

DAKIS: In terms of the process through AFMA, there has been some disquiet expressed in the press today that its come as a bit of a surprise. Rebecca Hubbard from Environment Tasmania suggests that this is a new proposal that is something different and there ought to be public consultation. Now there's no need for that in the legislation, but do you think it is an expectation that the public is consulted about this?

COLBECK: I would object the assertions put by Rebecca Hubbard. The company has been talking to Government and I know ENGOs and community about this for a period of time. I think this is from Environment Tasmania more of an anti-industry campaign than it is anything about conservation, or more likely a chance for a bit of publicity.

DAKIS: What would be a problem with having wider public consultation?

COLBECK: Well it's interesting that claim was made because part of the process of having this fishery MSC certified is public consultation and that process did occur earlier this year, I saw the advertisements in the newspapers. Yet nobody turned up to the public consultation process. So I think this is more of a fear campaign run by anti-industry groups rather than about anything that is genuinely about fishing.

I have to say I am somewhat disgusted about the approach that has been taken, there's a fear campaign being run by these groups trying to pretend that big is bad.

We're talking about fishing off the West Coast of Tasmania in the middle of winter. I had a look at the wave height indicator earlier today and there are waves just this week of over eight metres, and in that fishing context a fishing boat of scale is also about safety.

I think all of those considerations need to be looked at before we start running off on some sort of scare campaign.

060614 COLBECK - transcript of interview on ABC Country Hour with Sally Dakis
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