Interview on 3AW Fishing Show - Geelong Star


13 MARCH, 2015

Geelong Star, small pelagic fishery


JOURNALIST: ... we now need to talk to Parliamentary Secretary Richard Colbeck, he is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture and he joins us now on 3AW fishing. Welcome Senator.

COLBECK: G'day David. How are you?

JOURNALIST: I'm very well and we've got Adam here in the studio as well. We just wanted to have a chat to you tonight I guess about a bit of fear going around the recreational fishing community about another supertrawler on its way to Australia and there's no man that could probably provide the facts any better than yourself and we just thought we'd get you on the program.

Because several years ago, I think it was called the F.V Margiris, may have even changed its name to the Abel Tasman or something like that, it was banned from fishing in Australian waters and there was a ban implemented on trawlers over 130 metres. Can you tell us about this trawler (Geelong Star) and does it fit under than ban length?

COLBECK: Yeah it does. The Geelong Star as it's called is 97 metres long so it's well short of the Margiris, which was 143 metres I think from memory.

It had a fairly significant hold capacity and the hold capacity of this vessel is under 1100 tonnes - it is 1060 tonnes - so a lot smaller than the other vessel and well within the limits of two notices that were launched under the previous government's lapsed legislation.

JOURNALIST: And has the Geelong Star left its home port to travel to Australia already?

COLBECK: Yeah, look last time I saw some information it was down the West Coast of Africa, I'm not sure exactly where it is at this point in time but it's probably still in that zone somewhere and so it's a few weeks away.

JOURNALIST: And once it gets here, because obviously I think all the news is saying its heading to the port of Geelong, does it have permission to start fishing straight away, as soon as it gets here?

COLBECK: No it doesn't. What's happened so far is that it's been registered as an Australian vessel and there's been some work done on it prior to it leaving, but once it comes here our fisheries authorities and AMSA have to do some inspections on it to make sure that it's all ridgy didge.

Before it can start fishing it needs to have a vessel management plan approved and that process has commenced, but there's still some negotiations around what's in the vessel management plan.

Last week there was a meeting between the Small Pelagic Fisheries Association and the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation about some of the issues that relate to potential interactions between commercials and recs and some of the issues that are of concern to the recreational sector. I think there's another meeting due to occur next week just to continue talking about those issues - things like staying away from comps, how the move on provisions that are being considered might work, those sorts of things so that some of the concerns that were being expressed when the previous vessel was proposed and remain with some people in the rec sector can be managed across the whole fishery, not just for this vessel.

So I'm pretty pleased that the commercials and the recs are actually sitting down to talk to each other and working through these things, because it's better than government trying to impose it. If we can get an agreement between the commercial guys and the recreational guys its all the better.

JOURNALIST: Senator, is this supertrawler here for a specific species or is it just an open slather type thing?

COLBECK: No, they're coming to fish in the small pelagic fishery, that's their target fishery and the three species that are particularly looking for are jack mackerel, blue mackerel and red bait. Those are the species that they're looking for and those fish tend to school up at certain times in the cycles that they run through and they're pretty targeted in terms of their catch.

They've got a very low bycatch ratio and so they tend to catch particularly the species that they're looking to target. So it's a pretty well targeted fishery and of course there's a whole range of provisions around the total allowable catch and other provisions that run with that.

JOURNALIST: So that total allowable catch, the fear is, and there's no beating around the bush here, the fear is that it's going to take away I guess local stocks and deplete them and those stocks are the bread and butter food for southern Bluefin tuna.

I think there's no doubt about it, that's the main concern for rec anglers - the quota that they're taking. I've always seen these supertrawlers they're probably doing the same job as a group of smaller trawlers, am I correct in saying that?

COLBECK: Well the reason that companies like to use these vessels these days is a couple of things. So they can freeze the fish straight away which makes them a higher value fish, so rather than catching them in a vessel that just has an ice slurry or something to put them in they can freeze them straight away and then because they deteriorate pretty quickly after they're caught they can be frozen and they can go into the food market rather than say for fish meal or something like that.

So they're getting a higher value return out of it and that's the primary reason for it, basically the processing factory is on the ship rather than onshore that is the difference. It makes them more viable commercially to actually catch the fish.

The TAC is for the entire fishery, so at the moment they have that set at about 7.5 per cent of the total biomass and so that means that 92.5 per cent of the fish stay in the water and that takes into account all of the ecosystem requirements. That means the general ecosystem itself, higher level predators, and that includes SBT, dolphins, seals all of those sorts of things that like to eat them.

And so that's why the catch has been set at a pretty conservative level and we released some additional science on that about three or four weeks ago that will go into the final consideration at the new TAC for the next season and that talks about reducing the TAC for some species and increasing them slightly for a couple of the others. And that's publically available so we've released that science as its been done and we've spent about $1.5 million over the last 12 months to do some additional work on biomass because that was one of the concerns that was expressed last time around.

JOURNALIST: Senator, look we'll leave it there because I've got an absolute switchboard full of calls wanting to talk about it, so we'll let you go. Thanks for your time on the programme and understanding that is a pretty emotional issue amongst recreational anglers and I think there's actually a protest marked in the streets of Geelong next Sunday. So thanks for your time, Senator Richard Colbeck, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture.

130315 Interview on 3AW fishing show - Geelong Star - Colbeck
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