The South East Trawl Fishery is located around the South East Marine Reserve network. 14 marine parks covering 388,000km2 of the south east are all closed to trawling. They have been there for nearly 10 years. Take a video tour here.
Like fisheries closures (which are much larger) these marine parks protect the seafloor from potentially damaging fishing methods like trawling but marine parks are not a fisheries management tool. The trawl fishery is managed by data collected by surveys, from logbooks and from observers that feed into stock assessments from which quotas are set. Ecological risk assessments assess the risk to other species. Interactions with seals, seabirds and other listed species are mitigated and recorded. Fishermen continuously upskill themselves. The trawl fishing industry invests 8% of its revenue each year into this process.
Trawl fishermen are environmental stewards. They are often generational fishermen. They make this management investment because the future of their families depends on a healthy resource. Their quota asset only has value if there is a healthy fishery behind it.
Marine parks are about to be rolled out in the rest of Australia. Expert panels have made recommendations to Government by considering the risks that different fishing gears present and ecological features that may be at risk.
It is important that Australia does not move the challenge of harvesting wild caught fish offshore by increasing Australia’s already heavy dependence on imported seafood. Doing so would be irresponsible and not assist the global food challenge. The parks proposed by the Government strike the right balance of protecting seafloor habitat while allowing the Australian community to enjoy local, well managed, fresh seafood.
Australian marine conservation exceeds internationally agreed benchmarks and aspirational targets. In an interactive way the Protected Planet site shows that under this plan more than 3 million km or 41% of Australia’s waters are covered by marine parks.
All Australians should welcome this plan.