Geelong Star trawler dumps offal at sea luring albatrosses to their deaths
Humane Society International (HSI) has urged the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to prevent the Geelong Star trawler from dumping offal at sea. Offal discharge endangers the lives of threatened albatross species and other threatened seabirds that are attracted to feed but are struck by fishing lines or become entangled in nets and die.
The Geelong Star, a 95 metre trawler that has been controversial amongst conservation groups and commercial fisheries alike, has been given approval to fish in the Small Pelagic Fishery. Discharging offal at sea is the major risk factor for albatross deaths associated with fishing operations and retention of offal is accepted as an effective measure to prevent albatross bycatch, yet AFMA have not required the trawler to retain offal until port in its Vessel Management Plan.
Alistair Graham, HSI consultant said, “There are major flaws in the Vessel Management Plan for the Geelong Star. AFMA have not banned offal discharge at sea which will only attract birds to the ship at a time of high risk. AFMA have said that offal cannot be actively discharged while fishing equipment is in the water, but say nothing about discharging offal immediately before fishing equipment is deployed. This will only lure albatrosses to flock around the ship right before the highest risk period – when the fishing lines are released. This condition in the Vessel Management Plan is useless and will do nothing to prevent albatross bycatch.”
The Department of the Environment’s Albatross Threat Abatement Plan (TAP) for seabird bycatch from longline fishing operations outlines the goal of zero bycatch for seabirds, especially for threatened albatross and petrels. With such a legally mandated and necessary goal for longline operations set, and such a clear solution for preventing albatross bycatch in trawling operations, it is unclear why AFMA have not required the Geelong Star to retain offal until port especially when this is so easy to do for a large factory ship.
Mr Graham continued, “Many endemic and visiting albatross species are listed as critically endangered or endangered, some such as the antipodean albatross listed as a direct result of deaths from fishing operations. Recent scientific studies* have drawn attention to the high incidence of bycatch of the shy and black-browed albatrosses from trawling, both species listed as vulnerable to extinction under Australian law.
“Urgent action is needed to protect these species from extinction. Retention of offal is internationally accepted as an effective way to prevent bycatch. We urge Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture Senator Richard Colbeck to intervene and compel the Geelong Star to retain its offal for the benefit of our dwindling albatross populations,” Mr Graham concluded.
* Cumulative assessment of the catch of non-target species in Commonwealth fisheries: a scoping study (2010) by Phillips, K, Giannini, F, Lawrence, E and Bensley, N, Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra.