Category Archives: Environment

What’s to become of Victoria’s Gippsland Lakes commercial fishery?

15th August 2018

By Ross Winstanley*

Not content with their exclusive fishing access to every Victorian estuary, recreational fishers are now pushing for the closure of commercial fishing in the Gippsland Lakes.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, Victoria’s annual 800 tonne Gippsland Lakes commercial fishery produced 80% of Australia’s black bream landings, averaging about 250 tonnes.

Today, the Gippsland Lakes commercial fishery is under extreme pressure from recreational fishers and related business interests.  Flushed with the success of the 2014 campaign to end commercial net fishing in Port Phillip Bay, these interest groups are pressing the major political parties to bring an end to commercial fishing in the Lakes.

Success for this campaign would mean the end of another 10 perfectly sustainable family fishing businesses and the end of Victorian consumers’ access to black bream.

So, in the lead-up to Victoria’s November election, what positions will the major parties adopt regarding the future of fishing in the Gippsland Lakes?

Victoria’s 23-year record of fisheries and stock assessments have consistently shown the sustainability of the black bream and overall Gippsland Lakes fisheries.  Together with environmental assessments of the lakes system, these studies have tracked changes to fish habitats and fish stocks which have been matched with fisheries management changes.

Commercial fishermen have been proactive in initiating some important changes: in 1996 they observed the apparent total loss of juvenile bream throughout the lakes.  When surveys drew similar observations, the Government introduced emergency controls including tight monthly commercial catch limits and reduced recreational catch limits.  Many years earlier, the closure of commercial fishing on weekends and public holidays had a marked effect in easing competition with anglers.

The 1996 event brought about lasting changes: an increase in the legal minimum length for bream and the continuation of reductions in the numbers of commercial fishing licences.  Since 1995 alone, the number has been reduced from 21 to 10, mainly as a result of voluntary licence buy-outs.

As the numbers of licences have decreased, the level of commercial fish production has fallen accordingly.  In 1995/96 the total catch was 721 tonnes, including 130 tonnes of bream: in 2016/17 the total catch was 316 tonnes including 42 tonnes of bream.

The most recent estimate of the recreational catch from the lakes was 203 tonnes of bream in 2000/01.

Two comparative studies of the economic values of commercial and recreational fishing in Victoria’s bays and inlets showed no grounds for re-allocating fish resources between the sectors.

Current assessment
In 2017, the Victorian Fisheries Authority conducted detailed assessments of the State’s key marine stocks.  To lend additional rigour to the process, interstate fisheries managers and scientists participated in the assessments.  Drawing on detailed long-term commercial and recreational fisheries data sets, they found that the combined pressures from fisheries for black bream in the Gippsland Lakes are sustainable, as were the recreational-only fisheries in other eastern and western Victorian inlets.

Their conclusion was that “Appropriate management is in place.”

In contrast, none of the current anti-netting campaigns offer any evidence that commercial fishing is unsustainable or incompatible with angling.  Referring to the state of fish stocks and to angling success, statements such as “the decline is attributed to commercial fishing” offer no supporting evidence of declines from fishing or other causes.

Current political pressure
Since 1994, VRFish and local anglers have participated in at least seven Gippsland Lakes black bream and fishery assessments, all of which found fishing to be sustainable.  When presented with the evidence they agreed with the conclusions and the management implications.

Today, against this solid background of evidence-based policy and fisheries management come spirited appeals to end commercial fishing in the lakes.  Recreational fishing peak body, VRFish’s, key push to ‘save our Gippsland Lakes’ is a compulsory buy-out of all 10 licences as part of their ‘fish recovery plan.’  A petition asserts that ‘it’s time to end commercial netting of fish in the Gippsland Lakes’ to ensure ‘the sustainability of the Gippsland Region.’  The Futurefish Foundation web page simply urges “Ban netting in the Gippsland Lakes.”

VFA creel surveys show that angling success in the lakes is comparable to success in other East Gippsland inlets where anglers face no ‘competition’ from commercial fishing.  The evidence simply confirms what we know about recreational fishing everywhere: the majority of anglers catch very few fish.  Removing commercial fishing pressure – spread across 20 fish species – would not alter that reality.

The economic importance of recreational fishing to the Gippsland Region, including tourism, is widely acknowledged.  While the anti-netting campaigns claim that these benefits are threatened by commercial fishing, the VFA’s 2017 assessment shows that this is plainly untrue.  In fact, the full social and economic value from fisheries in the Gippsland Lakes can only continue if the viable commercial fishery is retained.  This has to be good news for government, seafood consumers and the wider Victorian community.

Market demand
Victorian seafood consumers’ keenness for bream can be seen in the prices they’re prepared to pay: about $30/kg which is more than they’ll pay for snapper.

Anyone who has read reports of fishing offences in Victoria might recall the prevalence of illegal gill-netting in rivers and streams around the bays, inlets and coastline.  Whether in the Werribee, Paterson or Tambo rivers, the main target for these activities is black bream.  This is a reflection of high prices and an unmet market demand for the species.

Speaking of markets, there’s more at stake here than 300 tonnes of fresh fish annually.  The Lakes Entrance Fishermens Co-op is a major source of Victorian and inter-state fish supplies.  The Co-op operates on very thin financial margins and closure of the lakes fishery would seriously threaten its continued viability.  As a popular direct outlet for fresh fish, the Co-op shop depends on the lakes fishery.  Without that fishery the shop would be likely to close as trawl-caught fish can be unavailable for weeks at a time during unfavourable seasonal conditions offshore.

Political response?
In 2014, the major political parties bowed to pressure from recreational fishing interests and committed to banning the commercial net fishery in Port Phillip Bay.  They did so without any consideration of the proven sustainability of that fishery.

Faced with similar pressures in 2018, what will the major parties do?  Will they seek balanced evidence-based policy advice from the VFA?  If so, what advice will they receive and how will they balance this against pressure from recreational fishing interests?

The outcomes will be revealed in the next couple of months.

Ross Winstanley is a keen angler, fishing writer and fisheries consultant.  For 30 years he worked with Fisheries Victoria in policy, management and research.

Seed bank protects food crop genetics

26th March 2018

Buried deep in the icy mountains of a remote island in Norway, is a seed storage facility that currently houses almost 1 million plant seeds from almost every country in the world.  Located 100 meters inside a mountain on the island of Spitsbergen, in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago, 1,300 kilometres from the North Pole its purpose is to be the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply, offering options for future generations to overcome the challenges of climate change and population growth.  It will secure, for centuries, millions of seeds representing every important food crop variety available in the world today.

The location for the seed vault was chosen for various reasons; the area is geologically stable, has low humidity and is well above sea level so is unlikely to flood even if sea levels rise significantly.  A temperature of -18ºC is required for optimal storage of the seeds and the permafrost that the vault is built into provides a cost effective and fail safe method of keeping the seeds frozen naturally.  Although remote, Svalbard is still accessible on a commercial flight.

The vault has the maximum capacity to store 4.5 million varieties of crops which is equivalent to 2.5 billion seeds. It is currently the most diverse collection of food crop seeds in the world ranging from unique varieties of major African and Asian food staples such as maize, rice, wheat, cowpea, and sorghum to European and South American varieties of eggplant, lettuce, barley, and potato.

The global seed vault in Svalbard was established as the final backup to the 1,700 plus gene banks that exist around the world that hold crop seeds for safe keeping.

But in a cruel twist of fate it seems that the seed vault my not be the all-withstanding fortress it was meant to be. The climate is changing and the northern polar region is warming twice as fast as the global average – and the permafrost that is currently preserving the seeds is melting!  Last year’s record soaring temperatures in the Arctic caused melting and heavy rain that that flooded the start of the tunnel that leads to the vault.  If Arctic winter temperatures continue to rise, the so called ‘Doomsday Vault’ itself may be doomed.

There is a growing acceptance that the world’s food production will need to grow by 50-100% by 2050.  Seafood is the largest contributor to the planet’s protein.   Good fisheries management is the ‘vault’ that must protect our fish stocks.

Fishing by electrocution

23rd February 2018

Electric pulse fishing (also known as electrofishing or electrical trawling) is a trawl fishing technique used in Europe to target flatfish (sole) and shrimp.  It involves the release of electric currents with a range of frequency, voltage, pulse polarity, pulse shape, and pulse duration combinations into the seabed to either immobilize fish so they do not try to escape the fishing net or to startle them to jump into the fishing net.  Traditional beam trawlers drag bobbin rope or tickler chains along the seabed to push finfish or shrimp up and into the path of the fishing net.

On ‘Electro-trawlers’, these gears are replaced with a number of electrodes, attached to the gear in the tow direction, that emit electric pulses. There are two basic types of pulses depending on the target species. Vessels targeting fish like Dover sole use a bipolar pulse of around 80Hz to induce cramping in the fish that immobilizes them and stops them from escaping the trawl net. While vessels that go after shrimp tend to produce unipolar pulses of around 5Hz that startle the shrimp and induce an involuntary tail-flip that causes it to jump up from the seabed into the net.

Watch the video below to learn more about how electric pulse trawling works.

On the surface, electrofishing might seem like the ideal, environmentally friendly fishing method.  The gear used islighter than some gear used in conventional beam trawling and consumes up to 50% less fuel to tow making it more economical. It also appears to be more selective. An average by-catch reduction of 35% in volume was observed during extensive commercial testing of the prototype. The trial also indicated that contact with the seabed was reduced by 75% while catch efficiency was maintained.

This method of fishing has been banned in the European Union (EU) since 1998 due to uncertainty about its impact on non-target marine organisms and ecosystems that may be exposed to its effects. However, since 2009 an exemption in the legislation has allowed EU member states to electrofish using 5% of their beam trawl fleet in the southern North Sea, and this was increased to 10% in 2014. In addition, some members states have increased their electrofishing capacity under the guise of conducting scientific trials to test fishing methods that avoid, minimise or eliminate fishery bycatch. In 2016 approximately 91, mainly Dutch and British, trawl boats were commercially electrofishing in this region.

However there is growing concern that electric pulse fishing may not be as sustainable as it is touted to be by some quarters. Studies on adult Dover sole and Atlantic cod have shown that the response of fish during and after exposure to electric pulses can range from a straightforward escape response at low electrical loads, to cramp reactions at medium electrical loads and tonic-clonic epileptic seizures, spinal injury and haemorrhaging in cod at high electrical loads.

Further, fishers in the southern North Sea have been reporting that since the industrial scale ramping up of electric pulse fishing in the area they have seen a drastic reduction in the key target species, sole, cod and seabass. They are also reportedly hauling large amounts of already dead fish and observing dead shellfish, starfish and small fish in areas fished by electro trawlers, so much so that they have started referring to the southern North Sea as the dead zone.

In January this year, French fishers blockaded the busy port of Calais to protest over the damaging impact that electric pulse fishing is having on fish numbers and their livelihood. Amid such heated protestation and controversy, on 16 January the EU parliament voted to ban electric pulse fishing in its waters. This ban is yet to be confirmed as decisions have to be negotiated with the European Commission and members states prior to being final but the EU parliament’s resolve has concerned the mostly Dutch fishers that have heavily invested in adopting the technology.

The final outcomes of this saga may not be fully known for some time but if nothing else, this is a cautionary tale on the perils of unleashing on the environment technologies that may on the surface seem sustainability-friendly but are not sufficiently supported by rigorous scientific testing and evidence. What seems to have happened in the southern North Sea is that electric pulse fishing has resulted in the trawling and, potentially destruction, of benthic habitats that used to provide sanctuary to feeding and juvenile fish by virtue of their inaccessibility to conventional beam trawlers.

Electric pulse fishing is not an allowed method in the South East Trawl Fishery.    Conventional bottom trawling attracts criticism for its environmental impacts but Australian and international research has shown that its impact on the environment is less than many allege.  Bottom trawling in south east Australia is aggregated into small areas due to closures or due to grounds being unproductive or too rough for the fishing gear.  Research in the south east has found that only 6% of the seafloor is every touched by trawl gear and that bottom dwelling invertebrates populations are at  80-93% of their un-trawled abundance and continue t increase.

Read more.

*Featured image is by Wageningen UR.

Links to reports on electrofishing.

ICES working group report

IMARES research institute webpage on pulse fishing

an article in “The Conversation” by Mike Kaiser:

Science Mag article:


Recycling fishing gear

22nd December 2017

All vessels in Australia have a responsibility not to pollute the sea and to be aware of the laws about oil and garbage pollution from vessels. Pollution of the marine environment by ships, including fishing vessels, is strictly controlled by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (known as MARPOL).

To minimise pollution, MARPOL prohibits ships from discharging garbage into the sea except in very limited circumstances. Australia is a signatory to MARPOL which is now enforced in over 150 countries.

In Australian waters, MARPOL is given effect by the Commonwealth Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 and the Navigation Act 1912. It is the basis for Australian and state government regulation of pollution from all ships, including fishing vessels, in Australian waters. Australian MARPOL regulations apply to Australian fishing vessels wherever they are operating and they can also apply to foreign fishing vessels operating within Australia’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone. Penalties can be up to A$17 million for the shipowner and A$3.4 million for the Master of a fishing vessel discharging waste in contravention of the MARPOL regulations.

Fishers work hard to not pollute the sea which provides their livelihood.  Lost trawl netting can even entangle marine animals like seals.

For South East Trawl operators, this obligation is further reinforced through the SETFIA online learning course on Understanding Commonwealth Marine Reserves.  Additional rules apply within marine reserves.

According to MARPOL, garbage includes synthetic ropes, trawl nets and other fishing gear and these cannot be discarded at sea.

In the South East Trawl fishery, fishing gear such as the rope and nets wear out and need to be replaced periodically. However, the only option for disposal available to fishers is to take their old fishing gear to the tip for a fee , where it is most likely added to landfill.

Not only is this expensive in the long term but it is also a waste of resources given most, if not all, of the components of old fishing gear can be recycled or re-purposed.  Currently, fishers do not have a realistic disposal alternative that is reliable, cost effective, and environmentally friendly but the potential is huge. For example, old fishing rope (which is made from polypropylene and polyethylene plastic and lead) can be re-purposed as fencing rope, to reinforce terracing in farms or to create outdoor art installations due to its hardy and UV stable qualities.

Alternatively, the plastic and metal components can be separated and recycled. The lead can be recycled fairly easily as it can be used in other fishing gear or other products. Some types of material from old fishing rope or trawl nets can also be recycled in various ways. It can be melted and made into thin lines of plastic called filaments that can be used in 3D printing to make new objects. Nylon is another type of plastic used in trawl fishing nets and it can be melted down and recycled into fresh new nylon fibre that is then used to manufacture new high quality nylon products such as carpet tile, swimwear, socks and so on.

In 2017, to raise awareness of the negative impact ghost nets (lost or abandoned fishing nets) can have on the marine environment, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) worked with local Torres Strait artists to turn the harmful waste product into works of art and in turn educate about marine pollution.

Any company who are interested in a supply of polypropylene, polyethylene, nylon or lead is urged to contact SETFIA.

Austral Fisheries win Banksia award

17th November 2017

SETFIA member Austral Fisheries have won the Banksia Foundation’s 2017 Small to Medium Business Sustainability Leadership Award, for their work within the Australian fisheries landscape over the past 20 years.  Their work in Australia’s Northern Prawn and sub-Antarctic fisheries is explained in this video.

These fisheries were some of the first in Australia to be certified as sustainable and well managed by the Marine Stewardship Council.  Most recently Austral Fisheries became the first seafood business in the world to completely offset 100% of their greenhouse gas emissions for their products and business, and become fully carbon neutral.

The Banksia Foundation is a well-established not-for-profit organization dedicated to working with industry and community to focus attention on the recognition of excellence in sustainability.  The Banksia Sustainability Awards are regarded as the most prestigious and are the longest-running sustainability awards in the world. The 2017 Banksia Sustainability Awards comprised 11 categories, and reward Australian individuals, communities, businesses and government for their innovation, achievement and commitment to sustainability.

What’s a Zooplankton Hole?

4th July 2017

A recent journal article in the Nature Ecology and Evolution journal titled, “Widely used seismic survey air gun operations negatively impact zooplankton” (Robert D. McCauley et al) investigated the effects of seismic surveys on zooplankton.

Zooplankton underpin the health and productivity of global marine ecosystems.  Zooplankton are a group of small animals including organisms whose complete life cycle lies within the plankton (holoplankton) as well as organisms that spend part of their lives in the plankton before moving to the bottom (meroplankton).  Zooplankton are primarily transported by water currents but many have locomotion used to avoid predators or capture prey.





Seismic surveys are used to produce detailed images to determine the location and size of possible oil and gas reservoirs.  Sound waves emitted by seismic equipment are bounced off underground rock formations and the waves that reflect back to a vessel where they are captured by recording sensors for later analysis.

In March 2015 the study took place at Storm Bay off southern Tasmania.  It used plankton nets to collect live and dead zooplankton before and after a simulated seismic survey.  The study found the simulated survey created a 2km wide “hole” up to 30m deep in the zooplankton population where abundance dropped by two-thirds and the number of dead zooplankton increased two to three times.

The study did not investigate why this was occurring but did speculate that exposure to seismic waves may have damaged sensitive hairs that zooplankton use for locomotion.

Zooplankton are “R” selected meaning they have high growth rates, short life cycles, high reproductive rates and very low survival to adults.  These populations may only be affected for a short time by seismic surveys because they can bounce back quickly.   However, the study noted that commercial fish species are also a significant component of zooplankton.  Commercial fish species rely heavily on annual recruitment events and are not true R selected species.

South East Trawl fishermen have always known that once a fishing ground has a seismic survey that it becomes unproductive for a period of months.  The zooplankton hole theory might explain this with a period of unproductivity occuring until the short life cycle of these organisms and oceanic mixing backfills the hole.

In 2014 oil and gas exploratory company ION proposed the largest seismic survey in Australia’s history effectively covering all of south-east Australia (see below).  Thankfully this survey was cancelled for commercial reasons.

In spite of recent research about the potential negative effects that seismic surveys have on zoooplankton, scallops and crayfish, SETFIA members are consumers of oil, acknowledge the importance of Australia’s energy security and want to act as good neighbours.  For these reasons SETFIA continues to assist the oil and gas industry to plan and run their activities in a way in which the fishing industry present the lowest possible risk and the disruption to fishing businesses is minimised.

Trawl fleet makes 1 May baffler deadline

19th May 2017

The 2017-18 fishing season started on 1 May and the newsletter can report that all board trawl vessels made the deadline to have new and improved seabird mitigations in place.

Seabirds are attracted to fishing vessels by the sight and smell of fish and fish offal.  They can be injured or killed when they collide with the cables (known as warps) used to tow trawl nets.

In 2014, SETFIA received an Australian Government ‘Caring for our Country’ grant of $330,000 and with the Great Australian Bight Industry Association travelled to New Zealand on a study tour.  The team of eight, short-listed devices and techniques to better protect seabirds. Two devices were prioritised; sprayers and bafflers.

As at May 1 all commercial trawl fishing vessels in these fisheries must now use either sprayers, bird bafflers, or pinkies (large buoys that are placed in front of where trawl warps enter the water). If pinkies are used, fishers must not dispose of any offal while fishing.

Bird Bafflers have proven to be the go-to device by the southern trawl fleet, with the majority of operators investing in and installing the device. Bafflers are designed to prevent seabirds from entering the ‘danger zone’ where trawl warps enter the water. They are made from long curtains of rope and pieces of plastic piping, which act as a fence and stop seabirds from coming near these warps.  Trials showed that they reduced heavy interactions by 96%.  27 boats have fitted bafflers.

Different to bafflers but also an effective mitigation tool, seabird sprayers create a curtain of water around the area where the warps enter the water. Sprayers are more expensive than bafflers.   During trials the sprayer reduced interactions by 92%.  Due to cost and complexity only one vessel is using a sprayer.

As part of the new arrangements, bafflers and sprayers must meet specifications and receive approval before use. Any vessel seeking to use the third option of pinkies with no offal discharge while fishing must prove they can do this with an AFMA observer on board. Only one part-time vessel is currently using this option.

$$Bucks for bafflers

19th January 2017

SETFIA is committed to sustainable fishing practices  so members continually work to minimise their environmental impact while catching fresh fish for Australians.  This work includes minimising interactions with seabirds.  An interaction is any contact between the vessel and a seabird that causes injury, death or distress.

In 2014 SETFIA secured Australian Government funding to trial a number of mitigation devices, this trial showed that baffles are the best and cheapest mitigation.

Together with the Great Australian Bight Fishing Industry Association (GABIA), it called on AFMA to mandate that all vessels use one of the following three seabird mitigation strategies by May 2017:

  1. Bafflers,
  2. Sprayers or,
  3. Pinkies and no offal discharge while fishing

SETFIA has secured funding to assist operators to install bafflers.  After a vessel’s baffler is approved that vessel will be given $500.  A baffler is considered approved after inspection by AFMA or SETFIA against the specification.  Following that, each vessel’s design is captured in an individualised seabird management plan (or SMP).  The full cost of installing a baffler is $3,000-$6,000 so only part of the cost is covered.

AFMA and SETFIA have also produced a video about how to construct bafflers.

Several vessels already have approved bafflers.  Pictured below is the approved baffler on the port side of the Western Alliance.

baffler_port side wa







Work continues and there will be lots of activity in the remaining three months.

For more information on seabirds check out these links:

More about SETFIA’s work on seabird conservation

Check list used to approve bafflers

Baffler guide

SETFIA online course for fishers

25th November 2016

SETFIA believes that training and development is of critical importance in achieving our strategic goals. The Association has run two courses called Implement and Monitor Environmentally Sustainable Work Practices (SFIEMS301A) and Manage and Control Fishing Operations (SFIFISH402c). 121 qualifications were issued to trawl fishermen and 160 fishers from other fisheries. Both courses were TAFE accredited and contribute to a Certificate III in Fishing Operations. The courses produced immediate results with significant increases in the quality of reporting and set the cultural groundwork for initiatives like the program to reduce seabird interactions, the transition to online logbooks and the
co-management of eastern pink ling and snapper.

SETFIA is currently offering two free on-line courses. Both are TAFE accredited and, like the previous units, contribute to the achievement of a Certificate III in Fishing Operations.

1. Understanding Marine Reserves (SFISHIP201C Comply with organisational and legislative requirements).

This course would be of benefit to all State and Commonwealth licensed fishermen fishing in or around the South East Marine Reserve Network. It covers:

– the South-East marine reserve network,

– the role of marine reserves and who manages them

the difference between marine reserves and other fishery closures

the different types of marine reserves

– Zoning (where vessels can fish)

– Class approval

– Compliance and penalties

2.  Act to Prevent Interaction with Protected Species (SFIEMS302B Act to Prevent Interaction with Protected Species).

This course is applicable for all senior crew, managers and office staff in the South East Trawl Fishery. It covers:

– Methods to protect and identify seabirds, fur seals, sharks and rays

– Rebuilding species and individual species management arrangements

– Reporting

– Relevant Acts

– Handling practices

– Social licence

Both on-line courses are free of charge because they are funded by AFMA and Parks Australia. If fishermen want to compete Understanding Marine Reserves and or Act to Prevent Interaction with Protected Species, they can contact:

Danait on 0427 138 167 or via email

Simon Boag 0428 141 591 or via email

Send us a message on social media: Twitter @SETFIA or Facebook/southeasttrawl

$100,000 Reason to Complete OnLine Learning

7th November 2016

SETFIA is offering all south east commercial fishermen the opportunity to undertake an online course on “Understanding Commonwealth Marine Reserves”.  The course is funded by Parks Australia and is specific to the South East Network of Protected Areas and it could potentially save you $100,000!

The Brisbane Times reported that two years ago, a commercial fisherman caught what might be the most expensive rock lobsters ever netted in Australia.   The fisherman will pay close to $100,000 for the three lobsters – when he could have sold each lobster for $200 at market.

The Federal Court found that he set his lobster traps in part of the South East Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network – a 388,000km2 protected marine area that stretches from the far south coast of New South Wales, around Tasmania and Victoria and west to Kangaroo Island off South Australia.  The video below introduces the South East network.

In April 2014, a surveillance aircraft photographed the fishing boat in a Commonwealth marine protected area off Hobart whose zoning did not allow potting.  Alarmed at being seen, the vessel steamed out of the protected area before returning a few hours later to haul its pots and was apprehended by Tasmania Police on the wharf.

The Australian Government pursued the fisherman through the courts in a two-year case that has racked up tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs.

Justice Robert Bromwich​ said he was going easy on the fisherman and imposed a “somewhat lenient” $28,000 fine.  After he pays the legal costs of the federal Environment Department and his own lawyers, the fisherman will be liable for close to $100,000.

The maximum civil penalty fine for a breach of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is $90,000, Justice Bromwich said, and the fisherman was lucky he hadn’t been hit with criminal charges as well.

The SETFIA course on “Understanding Commonwealth Marine Reserves” is specific to the South East Network of Protected Areas.  It covers where the reserves are, which fishing methods are allowed in which reserves and the reasoning behind the reserves.  Notwithstanding the examples above, SETFIA believes that most fishermen want to do the right thing and that by increasing their knowledge fishermen and owners reduce their personal and company risk.  This is important because the penalties are severe. The course is TAFE accredited and is free of charge for eligible fishermen.  It can be completed anywhere with an internet connection; home, office or even from a fishing vessel.

Any fishermen wanting to undertake the short course should contact SETFIA at or by Facebook or Twitter.