Media Release Fisheries

Another bailout for failing fishery must bring results for our oceans

March 31, 2022

A second taxpayer bailout for a mismanaged and damaging fishery must deliver enduring reforms that result in better outcomes for our oceans, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.

The Commonwealth South East Trawl Fishery which targets declining species like silver trevally, John Dory, redfish and jackass morwong in waters off New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, was handed $24m in Tuesday’s budget to reduce fishing effort and improve the sustainability of these stocks.

The majority of the funding ($20m) will go towards buying back trawl vessel permits to ensure less fish are caught.The remainder will be used to support management and compliance.

AMCS sustainable seafood manager Adrian Meder said he hoped the multimillion dollar bailout would bring tangible benefits to the health of the oceans being fished  this time around, including rebuilding population numbers of the depleted stocks.

“This fishery benefited in part from a huge $220m federal bailout to tackle overfishing and stock issues in 2005. It was supposed to have helped this fishery and others fix their problems with overfishing by 2015. But the issues are still not solved and they are getting another golden handshake,” said Mr Meder.

“Seventeen years on from that first bailout, this fishery has not ended overfishing, it has not adapted to global heating effectively and it has only rebuilt a tiny fraction of the stocks that were overfished. It still does not have cameras on boats to ensure these fishers are being honest about what they are catching, including endangered species, and what they are dumping back into the sea. As far as we are aware, the new funding will not go towards paying for this measure.

“If we are going to give them more of our money for mishandling fishery resources that also belong to the Australian community, we need to see real reform and world leading environmental protections in return. Currently only 2% of fishable depths (<1500m) in south eastern Australia are protected from fishing in marine parks.

“No Australian fishery has put more of its once targeted species on the threatened/endangered species lists than the Commonwealth South East Trawl Fishery. Many are now so depleted they meet the criteria for a critically endangered status, such as blue warehou. We hope this new funding will assist but without cameras on boats, we are concerned stocks won’t recover and this fishery will remain mismanaged and unsustainable.”

Mr Meder highlighted that another part of the fishery – the deepwater orange roughy trawl – was one of Australia’s most damaging, impacting delicate deep sea coral reefs that science has shown will take decades or even centuries to recover.

Despite new science showing these impacts, no new protections for these coral reefs have been put in place, new exploratory deep-sea trawling is being permitted and catches are being allowed to increase, he added.