Parks Australia manages six Commonwealth national parks on land, the Australian National Botanic Gardens, and Australia’s network of Commonwealth Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Parks Australia is part of the federal environment portfolio in the Department of the Environment.
Parks Australia is launching a new alert service to help Commonwealth commercial fishers know when they enter an MPA. This free service comes at no cost to industry and has been successfully trialed by a SETFIA member and the Association.
The alert service starts on 1 July 2014 and will cover all fishing methods for Commonwealth operators licensed to operate in the South-East Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network. Only Commonwealth operators have an onboard satellite vessel monitoring system (VMS) which is required for the alert system to work. The alert service is an important development in the South-East Fishery because transiting MPAs is unavoidable for trawl vessels – 14 MPAs crisscross the south-east forming the largest deepwater MPA network on the planet.
Commonwealth operators will receive a text alert to their nominated contact with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) when they enter an MPA if the type of fishing method associated with the vessel licence is not allowed. There are no reserves in the South-East MPA network where trawling is allowed so trawl vessels will receive an alert as they enter every MPA but can opt out of the scheme if they wish. Commonwealth trawl operators are allowed to enter and transit MPAs provided they do not fish. As a general rule trawl vessels fish at 3.0 to 3.5 knots but move around at faster speeds. Satellite tracks from the VMS system are regularly reviewed and any vessel travelling at less than 5 knots through an MPA is investigated by AFMA and Parks Australia.
Parks Australia has reminded operators that the alert service is a support tool only. It is still the Skipper’s responsibility to know where the vessel is, the fishing methods allowed in each MPA and to have nautical charts for MPAs on board.