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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 8986

Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (10:36): The Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2012 will amend the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Administration Act 1991. The purpose of this bill is to facilitate the implementation of electronic monitoring and to upgrade the acts to provide modern administrative processes to use electronic opportunities of e-monitoring in a positive way. That is consistent with the direction of most government agencies in making administrative and regulatory processes of any industry more efficient and more effective and probably bringing down the costs associated with the regulatory process.

The bill will provide for a system of e-monitoring of fishing and fishing related activities undertaken by Commonwealth fishing concession and scientific permit holders. Other amendments to the bill will increase the effectiveness of the provisions of the Fisheries Management Act that make corporations and other persons responsible for unlawful conduct engaged in by their employees, agents or directors. The amendments will also improve consistency and clarity by amending the obligations that AFMA has when making and notifying fishers of directions to close a fishery, including in emergencies. If information comes to hand, then they can get information out quickly and notify fishers at sea or on land on what their decisions are.

The bill will also clarify 'part of a fishery,' which sometimes might be affected and needs to be dealt with. It brings the act into line with that. It also permits AFMA to waive levies which apply to statutory fishing rights. I understand that consultation has taken place with other agencies. Large sections of the fishing industry have also been consulted and involved in trials of e-monitoring. The Commonwealth Fisheries Association, the peak industry representative body, has been consulted on these proposed amendments. So we are moving forward, modernising the opportunities for managing fishing regulations and fishing management in Australia. Of course, fisheries management in Australia is seen as probably one of the best regimes in the world, and AFMA seems to be operating a stand-out process. The collection and organisation of data, and being able to get it together in a very efficient and effective way, is very important for regulation. Knowing what is coming out of the fisheries, what the take is, what the conditions are et cetera, helps us manage fisheries in a modern and positive way. Of course, that data goes into research and assists in maintaining our wild fish stocks in a sustainable and proper manner.

I want to go to an issue about fishing which has come up in the Commonwealth's small pelagic fishery. A large trawler is being considered for fishing off Australian waters. I have had a considerable number of people seeking information from me—some, I must say, in a very poor manner, in a very nasty manner. I do not mind people seeking information and letting me know their views but we all should endeavour to make those things operate in a proper manner. If anybody wants information from me, I do not mind them seeking it, but they should do that in a proper manner. My staff have to deal with emails and texts and other things. The first question related to the number of people in the fishery. From the information I have been able to get in relation to this fishery, from the list of the SFR holders for this fishery, I have counted 169 separate quota in both the eastern subarea and the western subarea for the species including blue mackerel, jack mackerel, red bait and a small group in sardines. Of these, Seafish Tasmania has six quotas, three in each, and these are the only fish for which they have sought a quota.

The second question related to whether the ship the Margiris attracts an EU subsidy. At this stage there is no evidence that the fuel used by this boat while fishing in Australia will be subsidised by the EU. One question related to the estimates of global fuel subsidy and figures not specific to this vessel. It would seem unlikely that an Australian registered vessel would qualify for a subsidy from the EU. But there is no evidence either way that I can find.

The third question related to whether the trawler catch will result in fewer fish for the top predators in the ocean. The role of small pelagic fish in the food chain is an issue of concern for recreational fishers who argue that fishing on AFMA sustainable level terms will impact on the top predators, for example, tuna and billfish. AFMA has indicated that the top predator fish are not as dependent on the fish species as targeted by the SPF as they are on similar fish in other areas of the world. There is a wider variety of prey species in Australian waters. It might be useful to look at the 2011 report, Impacts of fishing low-trophic level species on marine ecosystems, which studied ecosystems in various currents in California, Northern Humboldt, North Sea, Southern Benguela, and south-east Australia. It talked about the relationship of the abundance in the ecosystem with the connectivity of the group in the food web. So it appears that from the study the impact of fishing both species was low in the Australian and Californian current ecosystems. There are other factors that influence the ecosystem effects. Therefore it has been argued that it is highly unlikely that local depletion will occur because the fish species are highly mobile and vary with the ocean fronts and currents. However, there is no specific research on stock movements for the SPF species. There has been research done on the stock structure and location and it does back up some of the other findings that there is sufficient stock available to move more than to fill the quota.

From the various documents I have sourced to try to answer concerns, it is very hard to argue that this ship will cause any impact on the fishery. AFMA has found no evidence that large boats pose a higher risk to either commercial species or the broader maritime ecosystem when total catches are limited and the limits are enforced.

The other issue is that there are a number of other companies that are fishing in this fishery, and whatever decision is made for one ship has to apply to the others. By the same token, all conditions that have been put on the commercial fishers apply to any new entrants into the fishery: all are scrutinised for their catches and fishing methods. So my concern is to try to deal with the real issue that we are looking at here, that preventing this ship from operating on the grounds that it might overfish or act illegally in some way would be unfair to the business operator and may leave the government open to legal challenge on various grounds. Every application for a licence has to be treated equally. That is the way our system works. That is the way the fishing regulations in Australia are structured.

Although I understand totally the concern of recreational fishers across the country, I think some of the concerns have been mischievously blown up and used to try to stop fishing everywhere—that might apply to recreational fishers too, especially into the future. I really want people to understand that I am very pleased that people are taking such an interest in the sea and are concerned about fish stocks and fishing sustainably, both commercially and recreationally. I think that is a very good thing for the country. We need to be able to show that we are fishing sustainably and that we know what is coming out of the fishery, what fish are left, the age of those fish, what the egg counts are, that it is sustainable and when to change quotas either down or up.

This bill is trying to deal with modernising the efficiency of the Australian fishing industry and the regulatory processes through AFMA by getting it onto an e-monitoring process, so that AFMA can use modern processes to communicate with the fishing industry. All boats that go to sea now are registered, they all have monitors on them that transmit where they are, where they are fishing, the fish that are taken and the bycatches. That is all recorded so that we know and we can build up very good data for making good, sustainable fishing decisions into the future. It is in the interest of everybody, including the fishers, people who work on the fishing boats and recreational fishers who take fish from some of these fisheries as well, that we have a sustainable fishery and that we have information recorded for research, and that we continue to monitor and to make the right decisions about sustainable fishing in Australia. I am very pleased to support this amendment bill which will modernise and make more effective the process that we use in Australia, which is seen to be among the best in the world for managing wild fisheries.