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Strong Fisheries Management and Community Consultation

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AUSTRALIA - The Government issued an update on the FV Margiris' plans to fish in Australian waters, and announced special arrangements for community consultation.

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The independent government regulator, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), today released a statement outlining the strong management of Australian fisheries and the strict regulations that would apply to the vessel should it be granted access.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, said despite detailed briefings through AFMA there continued to be confusion of the facts by some groups.

There has been lots of discussion about the possibility of the FV Margiris operating in the Small Pelagic Fishery and what that may mean for the environment and fish stocks in the area. Its important the myths are busted and the facts are made clear, Minister Ludwig said.

Australia has some of the most sustainable and best managed fisheries in the world, due in large part to AFMA's strict regulations to which fishing vessels in our waters need comply.

AFMA is the independent regulator responsible for managing our fisheries and assessing applications for vessels who wish to operate in Australian waters. AFMA today released another public statement on the controls that would apply to the FV Margiris.

AFMA advises that, to date, no application has been made to AFMA by Seafish Tasmania to have the FV Margiris operate in an Australian fishery, Minister Ludwig said.

"Regardless, their statement today clearly shows that observer coverage, quota management and by-catch provisions would all be considered and applied to the vessel."

Minister Ludwig said despite the strict regulatory system, the Government was aware that there are community concerns and is actively working with stakeholder groups and the operator of the FV Margiris, Seafish Tasmania, to address these.

Recreational fishing groups, gamefishing groups and Seafish Tasmania have each agreed to take part in a working group, which will be chaired by an independent third party and supported by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), to manage local industry and community concerns, Minister Ludwig said.

The group has been formed to develop an agreement between the company and the groups on additional voluntary conditions. These measures would be on top of existing government regulations that would apply to the vessel.

The independent body, AFMA, has agreed to incorporate the parties agreement as part of its regulatory tools where possible.

Environment groups declined the invitation to participate in the working group.

"These groups had sought and received an urgent meeting with me, which I facilitated. Two days later I made an offer to them to take action and play a role in this group. They declined. This is particularly disappointing, given their interest in the issue."

The working group was proposed by the Minister in addition to multiple briefings given by the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary Sid Sidebottom, AFMA and Government officials to stakeholder groups, including environment groups, as well as the local community, industry and politicians.

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