Four South East trawl vessels have been caught out not using mandatory devices to prevent seabirds becoming caught, injured or killed in fishing gear.
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has expressed its disappointment with these results following a recent aerial surveillance operation off Victoria and Tasmaniato to ensure compliance with seabird rules.
Under the rules introduced last year, trawlers must use devices to protect seabirds while trawl gear is in use.
A recent survey by Oceanwatch, commissioned by the South East Trawl Industry Association and supported by AFMA, showed over 90 per cent of operators are aware of these requirements.
However, the first surveillance operation detected a number of fishers not using the necessary devices and as a result AFMA issued two fishers with official warnings.
AFMA then contacted fishing operators by mail, SMS messages and through AFMA’s vessel monitoring system warning that any further non-compliance would be dealt with more harshly.
Despite the reminders, later aerial surveillance operations detected a further two operators not complying with the seabird management arrangements. Both vessels were ordered to port and investigations are continuing.
Peter Venslovas, AFMA General Manager Operations, said that use of the seabird mitigation devices is a mandatory component of seabird management plans, which were developed and agreed upon with each fishing vessel operator.
Since the plans were introduced AFMA has been working with owners and operators to develop a range of measures that reduce fishing impact on seabirds.
AFMA will continue to monitor fishing activity in areas where trawl boats operate.
Any fishing operator suspected of not complying with seabird rules will be subject to strict compliance action which could include an immediate order to return to port, investigation and possible prosecution. firstname.lastname@example.org www.fis.com
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