South-East Marine Park Review

South-East Marine Park Review


This submission is submitted on behalf of two fishing industry associations who combined represent the two largest fisheries (by volume) operating within and around the South-East Marine Park Network. These two fisheries are the Commonwealth Trawl Sector and the Gillnet, Hook, and Trap Sector. These fisheries catch 79% of the for-human-consumption wildcatch seafood production from within and around the network available to Australians (not exported).

The Australian Government has a long-established, complex, and extensive system of fishing rights. Operators in these two fisheries have built businesses and livelihoods upon this system in good faith. The total annual cost levied on these fisheries by the Australian Government is ∼$6.0m (2023/24). The value of the rights in these fisheries is currently ∼$450m. A case study is provided in this submission which shows that when grounds are closed, fishers are forced to move to new less productive areas and as catch costs increase, the value of these Government issued rights decreases.

Australia has met and exceeded its international obligations, including Aichi Target 11, with far more than 10% of coastal and marine areas under protected area status. The total area of Australian marine waters under marine protection is now 45%. The south-East region is also on track to meet and exceed the renewed biodiversity Targets (30×30) with 43% of marine and coastal areas under protection given the inclusion of the new Macquarie Island MPA. CSIRO research8 shows that benthic marine invertebrate life in south-east Australia is healthy with biomass between 82-94% of their pre-fishing levels (and increasing) depending on taxa. This submission contends that this contrasts very well with Australia’s record of losing 40% of its forests and half its wetlands. The same research found that the CTS trawl fishery only touches the seafloor in 6% of the fishable grounds available to it (open ground between 3 miles and 1,000m deep not to the extent of the EEZ). This also compares favourably with the farming of 26% of the Australian landmass.

The IUCN red list ranks Australia’s extinction record as the 5th worst in the world (noting there have been no marine fish extinctions). This has occurred even though 20% of Australia’s landmass is under protection. These extinctions have been caused by introduced predators and changed fire management regimes which are not mitigated by protected status management. Similarly, the south-east marine environment faces growing climate change threat, but this threat is not addressed by more fishing lockouts.

Since 2004 no-fishing zones have exploded with 85% of the CTS trawl fishery and 90% of the GHaT shark (gillnet) fishery now closed to seafood production by marine parks and fishery closures. The south-east fishing industry is eager to support Australia’s transition to renewable energy given the climate change threats faced by these fisheries and has written to Ministers Bowen and Watt explaining this and proposing a way forward. However, when windfarm development begins in ∼2030 the three new renewable energy zones within the South East Marine Park Network will further displace catch and south-eastern seafood production will fall even further to below 21,000 tonnes. When this occurs, the local seafood available (that not exported) to Victorians and Tasmanians will drop to an all-time low of ∼15,000 tonnes and 7.2 million south-eastern Australians will have access to only two meals a year.

Conversely, consumer research in Victoria shows a preference for local seafood, belief that the seafood industry contributes to tourism, increasing importance placed on food provenance/experiences and belief that the fishing industry contributes to the appeal of coastal towns.

South-east Windfarm Proponents will report that SETFIA and SSIA were helpful in assisting them to submit Feasibility Licence applications in Gippsland recently. The fishing industry did this because the south-east is an identified climate change hotspot, and this is already impacting fisheries. Given plans for three Renewable Energy Zones around the South East Marine Network there is no space for additional marine parks. Further, in the same way that terrestrial protected areas do not mitigate the threat of introduced predators, marine parks will not mitigate the impact of climate change and the Australian community should not be misled into thinking that less fishing is the solution.

Each of the two fisheries covered by this submission will be impacted differently by additional marine park fishing lockouts:
1. There is understandably no CTS trawl fishing allowed in the South East Marine Parks Network. Marine parks and fishery closures mean that the trawl fishery now only has access to 15% of the ground once available. It is hard to imagine where a new marine park might be placed.
2. The small size and high complexity of regulation in the GHaT shark fishery mean it faces Government levies six times higher per unit of catch than in the trawl fishery and eight times higher per kg than the same fish caught in New Zealand. The fishery has been pressured by long-term below reasonable return financial performance and this is now recognised by the Australian Government (ABARES). Regulatory burden, high levies, trade-exposure, and reduced fishing areas mean that any further impacts on efficiency might see it hit a crash point and collapse economically. This is perverse given its healthy fish stocks, high catch rates and strong demand.


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