More Offshore Waters Opening in Australia's Small Pelagic Fishery

20 April 2016, at 1:00am

AUSTRALIA - From 1 May, more than one million square kilometres of additional offshore waters near southern and eastern Australia will open to mid-water trawling in the Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF).

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has found that SPF mid-water trawlers pose a low risk to deep water species such as orange roughy and gulper sharks and decided that many of the current closures are not required to protect these species during SPF trawler operations.

The move follows calls from recreational and commercial fishers to review the closures.

AFMA’s CEO, Dr James Findlay said the removal of some closures in the SPF meant that mid-water trawlers, such as the Geelong Star, can now catch their fishing quota in a substantially greater area.

“At the start of the next season, an additional offshore area more than 16 times the size of Tasmania will be available for mid-water trawlers in the SPF,” Dr Findlay said.

“AFMA makes decisions based on the best available science and risk assessments. Assessments show that bottom dwelling species in deep water areas are at low risk from SPF mid-water trawlers.

“With the changes, there will be more areas away from the coast for SPF operators to fish in.

“However, it should be noted fish stocks in all Commonwealth waters are a shared resource for Australians, across multiple industries and sectors, to use sustainably and enjoy.”

The total allowable catch limits for the SPF and operators are not affected by this decision and all catches will continue to be closely monitored.

Closures will remain in place to protect deep water species during bottom trawling operations in other fisheries.