The Beagle Editor, This area promotes itself as an #unspoilt coastline and plays host as a tourist destination that brings in $350m per year from recreational fishers alone. Your readers might be interested to learn that proposed changes will turn all of that on its head as trawlers cross the 3km line and begin their operations right up to our shoreline. It appears that the deals are all done and dusted and the "public consultation" was little but a token guesture to tick a box. What is planned will have dire consequences on our local fishing industry and our local tourism economy.
NSW Government Ignores Recreational, Commercial, Aboriginal Anglers and the Environment in the SE Commercial Trawl Fishery.
Concerns have previously been raised that the decision to cede management to AFMA with regards to the Transitioning the NSW (Commercial) Southern Fish Trawl Restricted Fishery to Commonwealth Management has already been made without consultation with all the relevant stakeholders.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance has already flagged with both Commonwealth and State based Fisheries managers that the current Consultation Paper is biased and deficient and does not provide any justification for the transition that would satisfy the concerns that most NSW recreational anglers have. (https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/800731/transitioning-the-nsw-southern-fish-trawl-restricted-fishery-to-commonwealth-management-public-consultation.pdf)
Whatever the reason, changing the management arrangements should only be considered if it is advantageous for NSW in the long term.
The Paper also does not provide any pros and cons for the various other management options above. No negative impacts are considered and no cost benefit analyses provided and this would represent the worst possible deal for the people of NSW and will have grave environmental, social, ethical and political consequences.
The poorly publicised consultation document reads like it is business as usual for the trawlers in NSW waters just that they will be managed by the Commonwealth rather than NSW. But it fails to clearly communicate to the layman reader (the vast majority of external stakeholders) that there will be some major technical changes.
The Southern Fish Trawl Transitioning Working Group’ responsible for this document appeared to have included only the handful of Southern Fish Trawl, Business owners along with some AFMA and DPI Management Officers. Experts in the environmental impacts and the greater external stakeholder groups have not been consulted to this point. So the resultant proposal is of course the best option for the small amount of SFT businesses to the detriment of the rest of NSW.
If this proceeds the external stakeholders that will be directly adversely impacted includes one million NSW recreational fisherman, all NSW commercial fisherman (other than the tiny number of SFT business owners), the thousands of business including those reliant on tourism, all NSW residents who care about the environment and everyone else who cares about equitably sharing the states resources.
Below are some of the risks in proceeding with the transition as described (many are technical in nature) and these have been provided by stakeholders who have engaged the RFA of NSW;
• No longer a 100 mm bobbin gear max. This will mean trawlers would be able to use oversize trawl bobbins over highly environmentally valuable low elevation reef. Likely negative impact on fish habitat and fish stocks. Bobbin gear allows trawl nets to be dragged over ground that would normally snag and or rip the net by lifting the bottom of the net over obstacles. Under current state rules bobbin size limited to 100 mm diameter which in turn limits the ground trawlers can trawl on to sand and small rubble only. Under the Proposed Transition there would be no size limit for bobbin gear.
• Size Limits: Species that had size limits which made them not worth targeting inside 3nm will now be exploited i.e. Silver Trevally. Likely negative impact on fish stocks. Smaller or no size limits for trawlers in NSW will undermine the importance of size limits for all other stakeholders. This may lead to increased intentional and opportunistic noncompliance with size limits. And adversely affect the Departments image in the broader community (see ‘super trawler' negative publicity). Likely negative social, political, ethical and environmental impacts
• Removal of trip limits in NSW Waters- All the quota (i.e. Flathead) could be taken inside 3mn. This could result a massive increase in the amount of flathead taken inside 3nm and with a lower size limit of 28cm. Likely negative impact on fish stocks.
• Conflict between other commercial fisherman such as Ocean Trap and Line, regarding the differing or removal of size limits that would apply to trawlers, for mutually targeted species. For example, consider this likely scenario- a low income, fee paying, NSW commercial Ocean Trap and Line fisher returning a few prohibited size snapper to water ( as required by the legislation) whilst a trawler hauls in his net just metres away and legally retains a huge quantity of prohibited size snapper. This directly and indirectly affects the Ocean Trap and Line fisherman’s ability to have a viable business by growth and stock overfishing and lowering market value. Likely negative social and political impacts. there is no guarantee the TRL fishers will be afforded the same rights as trawler and would be unsatisfactory result in any case
• Conflict with recreational fisherman and all other commercial fisherman regarding the smaller or complete absence of size limits that would apply to trawlers in NSW waters. As with the commercial example above. The Departments longstanding position on size limits as being effective evidence based way to manage fish stocks would be severely undermined and in my opinion of the RFA create a proposed that is untenable. Likely negative social and political impacts as tourists are likely to drop and ultimately business with close on the NSW South Coast. .
• Increased in extraction of all species within 3nm. Minimising fuel use is a major driver for commercial fishers when deciding where to fish. Fuel saving for the proposed dual NCW and SSESF boats will be a strong incentive to take as much of their allocated quote inside 3nm.
• Greater risk of harm to Threatened and Protected species i.e. Black Cod. Trawlers will naturally target more productive reef than ever before using oversized bobbin gear. These areas are known habitat for threatened and protected species.
• Known Snapper spawning grounds occur inside 3nm (NSW waters) these are generally over low elevation reef previously protected from trawling by the max bobbin size. These areas would be actively targeted by trawlers with oversize bobbin gear potentially decimating an environmentally, commercially and recreational important species. Thus resulting in a likely negative impact on fish stocks.
• Not in the spirit of sharing the resource. Damage to NSW Fisheries broader reputation and brand! The question will be asked. "Why is the Department appeasing the economic interest of a tiny stakeholder group whilst ignoring the interests of the broader and much larger external stakeholder group?" Negative publicity similar to the 'Super trawler' incident. Political and social risks.
• Growth Overfished: Two of the state’s most important recreational and commercial fish species are Snapper and Silver Trevally. Both of these species are listed in NSW DPI scientific publications as being growth overfished. However this Transition Document proposes that the trawlers in NSW have no size limits for those species which is exactly the opposite of what NSW DPI’s own scientific literature recommends.
Please note these are the selected points and other concerns are being investigated by the RFA on behalf of the all the fishers, local communities, business and visiting tourists. Submissions have closed – 9th April 2018. As a matter of interest this fishery only supplies just over 1.5% of seafood to NSW, BUT AT WHAT COST?
It would be far better to support the existing small local commercial fisher who provides local product to the community – not overseas! – Have their jobs gone?
The RFA believes this proposal will impact on local fishing, both rec and commercial, local business and the community in the longer term. If tourists go elsewhere to fish, more small shops with close and local jobs will also be lost! Recreational fishing contributes $360.82 million each year to the South Coast – how will small business and the tourist industry survive if this income is largely lost!
Time for all the community to step up and work together – this is an election issue! Please get on board and contact both your Federal Member and State MP’s.
We as a total community deserve a better proposal and we want to be involved in the discussions. The South East Trawl extends for the Hawkesbury River well past the Victorian border and east for 3 nm.
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Vice President RFA
NSW South Coast