Small pelagic fish. (Photo: AFMA)
Super trawler’s controversial arrival in Australian waters
Thursday, August 30, 2012, 06:40 (GMT + 9)
The super trawler Margiris is involved in a conflict of interest emerging after the government committee decided the amount the vessel could haul from Australian waters.
The divisive vessel will be docking this week in Port Lincoln, South Australia and will catch more than 18,000 tonnes of small pelagic fish like blue mackerel, jack mackerel and red bait – facing massive opposition.
Andrew Wilkie, Independent MP, said the quota has been unlawfully determined.
He argues that Gerry Geen, part owner of the Margiris in Australian waters and a member of a government advisory panel that recommended the quota for the super trawler, was improperly allowed to remain at a meeting last March.
“This calls into question really not just the quota relevant to the super trawler, but the whole way the Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) goes about its business,” he stated, ABC reports.
Further, Wilkie said members from another key AFMA committee that fed information into the quota decision have claimed their concerns were not represented or recorded.
“Not only do you have the proponent for the super trawler as a member of both committees, you've got other members of these committees who are saying their interests are not being represented. So clearly, there's a very, very strong case here that AFMA is skewing this in favour of the proponent for the super trawler,” he elaborated.
AFMA insists that the total allowable catch (TAC) limits were lawfully made by the AFMA Commission, an independent and expert group.
However, the Commonwealth Ombudsman is investigating the process that AFMA used to decide quotas for the Margiris.
This will climax in either the boat returning to Europe or AFMA repeating its processes again, this time lawfully, Wilkie said.
Geen owns Seafish Tasmania, which tried to get the quota for jack mackerel doubled to 10,000 tonnes. It has been said that for the vessel to break even, it needs to process 15,000 tonnes of pelagic fish.
This quota was increased apparently for research purposes, said Dr Andrew Wadsley, of Australian Risk Audit.
“Seafish Tasmania have put in a research programme. But I have to admit it looks very much like a Japanese whaling expedition,” he said.
Geen holds that he has acted lawfully and declared all his interests to AFMA.
But Wadsley revealed that the original research that underpinned the jack mackerel quota is flawed and based on data that is 10 years old. The research was for blue mackerel, making it very difficult to come up with a reliable estimate for jack mackerel.
The IMF's report says that their 140,000 tonnes should be treated with due precaution, but Wadsley has come up with very different numbers.
“My estimate: 47,000 tonnes is actually consistent with all other estimates of spawning mass for jack mackerel around the world, all the figures I could come up with. Their estimate of 140,000 tonnes actually is about three times all the world's estimates,” he explained.
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By Natalia Real