Tasmanian fishers and industry protest super trawler arrival

Margiris - on its way to Tasmania.
Carl Hyland
Boats of all size and application formed a flotilla on Hobart's River Derwent yesterday to rally against a super trawler, FV Margiris to be based on Tasmania's north-west coast.

The protest has brought together environment, tourism, recreational and commercial fishing groups who are concerned about overfishing of redbait and jack mackerel stocks in Commonwealth fisheries from Western Australia to New South Wales.

Organisers estimate more than 500 boats - including jet skis, wooden yachts, tourist cruises and fishing trawlers - joined the protest. They cruised beneath the Tasman Bridge, waving banners protesting against the imminent arrival of the FV Margiris, which Seafish Tasmania is bringing to Devonport. They then made their way to the Hobart docks to deliver a petition to Tasmanian Labor Senator, Lin Thorp.

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Rally organiser and recreational fisherman, Tyson Clements says trawlers much smaller than super trawler have decimated fish stocks before.

'It's important to me that I can take my little boy out and catch fish, for the rest of his life, and then he can pass that on to his children as it was passed down to me,' he told MarineBusiness-World. 'People have been fishing since the beginning of time and we are being locked out on the one hand, then this super trawler comes into this country and starts fishing on a massive and devastating scale.

'Fishing will be taken away from our kids' generation. It's ludicrous that our federal politicians would trade our state's clean, green, pristine island tourism image for greed. Our fishing community stretches far and wide across this state with more people fishing per head than any other state in Australia.'

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According to Clements, the rally was 'a great display of unity among recreational fishers, the commercial fishing industry, wilderness tours, jetskiers and kayakers, boaties across the board, all braving low temperatures and wind. It was 5 degrees out there, whic is testament to the strong feeling out there. If it had been a sunny day, we would have had hundreds more, I'm sure.'

But the message, he said, is being heard. 'This rally and those before it, have opened a lot of doors and got the message to the public. Politicians are starting to take notice and take our message to Canberra.'

Clements said local fishers with decades of experience knew the marine ecosystem better than the 'scientists sitting behind desks in Canberra'.

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Seafish Tasmania has said in the past it respects the right of groups to peaceful and legal protest, adding its 18,000-tonne jack mackerel and redbait quota is sustainable.

The Fisheries Management Authority has denied commercial interests influenced its decision to expand a fishery that will be targeted by the Margiris. The 142-metre Margiris trawler and processing ship left Africa 10 days ago, bound for Tasmania.