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Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2012
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Siewert, Sen Rachel
Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2012
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Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Senator SIEWERT (Western Australia—Australian Greens Whip) (12:15): The Greens will also be supporting the Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2012, particularly because we think this is an improvement on the way that observing and monitoring will be undertaken. As the parliamentary secretary pointed out when this legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives:
E-monitoring can include cameras, global positioning systems and sensors and can generate a range of visual and non-visual information for monitoring fishing and related activities.
Of course the issue around the monitoring is that it needs to be used—and it needs to be used for better fisheries management. Unless we see the information that is generated and requested from the fishers being taken up by AFMA, and then effectively used to improve fisheries management and to monitor what is going on—we can have all the monitoring in the world—it could be an investment that does not actually generate better fisheries management.
I talk specifically about the need to use information that is obtained and where monitoring is in place. For example, an issue that I have been following very closely is sea lion deaths. In my home state of Western Australia, conditions are a bit different to those that apply in South Australian fisheries. We have the Western Australian Southern Demersal Gillnet and Longline Fishery. This fishery was given renewed export permission last year by the federal government and conditions were imposed on that fishery. Likewise, conditions were imposed on that fishery previously and the Western Australian government did not implement them. One of those conditions involved monitoring and observing.
We know from experience in South Australia that, when observers were put in place and monitoring was undertaken, they suddenly discovered that there had been 374 sea lion deaths and 56 dolphins killed as a result of the use of gillnets. When these are used in the fishery in Western Australia those same conditions are not imposed and observers have not been put in place. So we actually do not know what impact that fishery is having on sea lions and dolphins. I believe this is critically important, because there are only around 12,000 Australian sea lions left in the world. I hope that, with this bill going through, there will be an added incentive for the Western Australian government to require those fishers to use e-monitoring.
I would also like to point out that the 2007 research paper on the benefits and costs of e-monitoring did point out the benefits of e-monitoring and the differences between observers and e-monitoring. They pointed out that e-monitoring 'may be more useful for documenting TEP interactions, especially with large marine mammals such as porpoises or seals, than for documenting catch.' They also pointed out that:
fisheries with diverse catch composition and large hauls, e.g., SE trawl, may have difficulty using EM for species resolution in the catch unless they agree to appropriate modification in their catch handling practices.
you need a single control point along side or on the vessel through which all fish and bycatch captured passes before the 'keep-discard' decision is made.
They also pointed out that some of the problems with observer monitoring included:
the difficulty due to logistical constraints, such as small vessel size, remote port locations, or variable fishing plans, of implementing random sampling procedures for observer assignments.
The paper also referred to observer bias. It pointed out that, because some of these difficulties are in place, it is difficult to circumvent observer bias and that e-monitoring 'can provide better unbiased data, regardless of cost, than can observer programs unless the observer program has 100 per cent coverage'. The researchers go on to say that 'observer data is not pure and can contain errors' and 'physical limitations, such as bed space, can act as a constraint' for putting observers on vessels. Also, as has been pointed out by Senator Colbeck and in other information, e-monitoring is much more cost effective.
We think this bill is worthy of support and we do support it. But, as I said, it is very important that we make sure we use the information that is obtained and that important fisheries, that can have an impact on such things as Australian sea lions and dolphins, do have e-monitoring in place. This is particularly important so that we can develop better fisheries management—which takes me to the issue of the Borthwick review.
In answer to questions in estimates in February the department and the minister confirmed that the Borthwick review had been completed and was currently with the minister. That was in the second week of February, and the minister had received it sometime before that. That was a month ago, and I am wondering when that review is going to be released. I know that there are a lot of people who are deeply interested in seeing that review and seeing the government's response. So I ask the government when that report is going to be publicly released and whether it is a correct understanding that, when that is released, the minister's response will be released at the same time. It is particularly important that we look at fisheries management, as I alluded to in my contribution to the bill we have just discussed, in the context of ecosystem-based management, in which marine protected areas play an essential role. Senator Colbeck talked about the need for science and about ignoring science, and I ask the question that I have asked in this place many times: how much more science do people need to understand that marine protected areas and reserves play a key role in fisheries management and in the protection of ecosystems? There is science to show that, but they care not to take it into account. You could look at not only the science but also video monitoring and e-monitoring. Hopefully, this will help convince people into the future that reserves play a key role in ecosystem-based management and that we need to ensure that our areas of high marine biodiversity and value are protected into the future.
Speakers also referred to the lack of science in these new marine parks under the very thorough bioregional planning process that has been undertaken. Over a decade and a half some fishers have been complaining in my home state of Western Australia that they would not be investing in increasing their fishing capacity on the south coast because marine protected areas down there were going to significantly impact on fishing capability. People further up on the west coast have said similar sorts of things when they have not even looked at the maps properly. They do not take into account the significant changes in fishing regimes or fishing regulations that have had to be brought in on the west coast of Western Australia because areas close to Perth have been overfished. They do not bear that in mind. I have not heard them talk about the need to ensure that the marine science is up to date with the marine heatwave we have been suffering off Western Australia. I have not heard them complain loudly about the fact that we need to significantly increase our surveillance of marine invasive species—because, with the increasing warming of the water around Perth, that is a potential risk, and there has already been one outbreak at Garden Island. Where is their response to ensuring that we have sufficient flexibility in our fisheries management to cope with the marine heatwave and the fact that we may have to change our management practices? We will be seeing species there that we have not had before, and we will see the disappearance of other species.
Just before our rock lobster industry started crashing, just before we had a major decline in that industry, just before we had a major impact from the marine heatwave, it was claimed that the industry had world's best management practice. That is where we need to be investing in our attention and our resources in marine research and marine science. We need to use the science in a way that ensures that we really do have the world's best practice in marine management. It is no good to sit back on our laurels and say, 'Australia has the best fisheries management practice in the world.' That does not mean a jot if our fisheries are still not being properly managed. If the baseline is poor it does not mean that we should be sitting back on our laurels and saying, 'No, we shouldn't be changing our fisheries management practices because we have the best in the world.' It does not mean that we should not be improving it. It does not mean that we should keep our practices static in the face of climate change, which we know is already having an impact on our marine environment. We are already seeing the effects off the west coast of my home state of Western Australia, for example. This nonsense of saying, 'We've got world's best practice so we don't need to change,' is, as I said, nonsense. We need to be constantly updating our fisheries management practices. We need to be making sure that they are the best that we can have into the future in the face of constantly changing marine environment as a result of the impacts of climate change and warming waters.
We do not know what the likelihood is of having more extreme heating events in Western Australia across our unique environment. We do not know how often we are going to have these extreme events. We do not know where they are going to impact. We know that, globally, there are wellings that are being influenced by climate change. We know that is having an impact on fish species and fish populations. Globally, we know that we have fisheries that have been overfished. Australia and Western Australia are, I agree, some of the best-managed fisheries in the world, but that is not an excuse to do nothing. That is not an excuse to say, 'We're getting it right; we don't need to improve.' We have already seen in Western Australia the impact just one extreme event can have on our fisheries, our fish species and our ecosystems.
We support this bill. We think e-monitoring is going to be an effective and useful tool. But it is only effective as to how what it finds is incorporated into management responses. We will be watching the implementation of e-monitoring very carefully, and we urge the government to engage in further discussions with Western Australia fisheries around the temperate demersal gillnet fisheries in Western Australia to ensure that those fishers are required to carry out the same practices as the South Australian fishers are. Given that we know the management practices there were having adverse impacts on Australian sea lions and dolphins, I do not believe there is any reason to think that we may not be having impacts on sea lions and dolphins in the gillnet fisheries in Western Australia. Because that condition around observers was not implemented, we do not know. There were claims in South Australia that the fishery was not having an impact on sea lions and dolphins—until they looked. When they looked, they found 372 sea lions and 56 dolphins had been affected. This is why monitoring is so essential in fisheries management. The Greens will be supporting this bill.