Skip Navigation
  • AMCS

Join our Mailing List

Make a Donation

Choose Wisely

Sustainable Seafood Guide

Love your seafood but also love our oceans? We are proud to offer Australia's first online sustainability guide to seafood.

Visit the online guide


Thu 11 May 2017

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) condemns the failure of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to protect dolphins from industrial fishing off Eastern and Southern Australia. AMCS is also shocked that dolphin-killing pair trawling is now permitted in the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) - completely snubbing over 2000 public submissions (1) from Australians who opposed this destructive method, referencing only 67 public submissions.

AFMA has approved pair trawling in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery (2) giving permission for these giant nets, pulled by two boats, to plough through our fragile ocean ecosystems at high speed to target small fish. These indiscriminate nets capture many non-target species as bycatch, including dolphins and seals, leading to severe injury, amputation or painful death.  

AFMA has also released two disappointing strategies for dolphin protection (3) in fisheries managed by the Federal Government: The Small Pelagic Fishery Dolphin Mitigation Strategy; and Gillnet Dolphin Mitigation Strategy.

Tooni Mahto, AMCS Senior Marine Campaigner said:

“Far from offering dolphins the protection they need and deserve, AFMA has given the green light to killing these incredible animals off Southern Australia. Most Australians would assume that our fisheries managers would consider it an absolute priority to protect dolphins from such terrifying deaths. Instead, AFMA has ignored thousands of Australians and shown that dolphin deaths are a minor issue for them.

“Last year 32 dolphins were drowned in gillnets in this fishery (4) which is simply unacceptable. AMCS expected AFMA to recognise the importance of dolphins to all Australians by implementing strategies to reduce that fatal figure down to zero. We’re deeply disappointed that they’ve ignored community expectations and are instead appearing to normalise dolphin deaths.

“It is unacceptable that AFMA would sanction the potential death of 18 dolphins in gillnets by a single boat before taking action against them. It’s unacceptable that an unlimited number of dolphin deaths across the whole fishery is considered a reasonable outcome for dolphins. (5)

“The UK has banned pair trawling precisely due to the impact on dolphins. But in Australia we’re ploughing ahead despite the impact on our dolphins. Allowing pair trawling in our waters is irreconcilable with sustainable fisheries.”

Josh Coates, AMCS Fisheries Campaigner said:

“AFMA has repeatedly dismissed ongoing community opposition to industrialisation of our Small Pelagic Fishery. The message from the community is clear: we do not want to see super trawlers or pair trawlers targeting small fish and putting dolphins at risk.

“That the Authority has not even acknowledged the existence of the submissions made by thousands of Australians (6) who sent emails opposing this move is disappointing and insulting. They are out of step with community sentiment.

“Our fish and dolphins are too valuable to our oceans and our tourism and recreational fishing communities to allow risky new fishing methods like pair trawling.

“We call on the Turnbull Government to reverse this destructive decision and not allow this dangerous new fishing method into our fishery. We also ask to him to respect community sentiment and legislate to ban factory freezer trawlers like the Geelong Star from the Small Pelagic Fishery for good.”

- ENDS - 


Notes to Editors:

1. The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) collated 6842 responses from Australians opposing pair trawling through a public call for submissions - submitted to AFMA on 9-10 February 2017. However these were not acknowledged by AFMA at all during their approval process, who incorrectly referenced only 67 public submissions.

2. The approval for mid-water pair trawling in the Small Pelagic Fishery can be found at:

3. AFMA’s Dolphin Mitigation Strategies - in the Small Pelagic Fishery and South Australia - can be downloaded at:

4. Details on interactions with protected species - including dolphins - can be AFMA’s quarterly reports

5. The new AFMA rules apply to individual fishing operators: if one fishing operator kills enough dolphins to be banned for a period, other fishers are still permitted to enter and continue to kill dolphins in that same area - with potentially disastrous impacts on local dolphin populations. Previously, areas have been temporarily closed altogether and protected from further fishery impacts if unacceptable levels of dolphin deaths occurred within them.

For further information please contact:

AMCS Media and Communications - 0412 505 405 -

Tooni Mahto, AMCS Senior Marine Campaigner - 0467 081258 -

Josh Coates, AMCS Fisheries Campaigner - 0438 805 284 -

< Back