The likely arrival of the biggest vessel to ever fish the Eastern Seaboard is causing widespread concerns amongst commercial and recreational fishermen and conservationists.
The 143 metre FV Margiris is currently being refitted in Holland to be reflagged as an Australian vessel ahead of its expected arrival in Tasmania this spring.
Eden’s offshore waters will be included in its territory as it fishes between Townsville and Western Australia, targeting redfish and jack mackerel for Triabunna-based company SeaFish Australia.
Preliminary reports say it has a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 18,000 tonne to be unloaded in pre-frozen blocks destined for African and Asian markets.
Eden trawler man and industry representative John Jarvis has echoed the concerns of amateurs and conservationists saying strict control needs to be enforced while the vessel is here.
Protecting biodiversity is his major concern and he said the titan has the potential to undo decades of work.
Blue warehou, school shark and gemfish catches are being carefully monitored by the government and fishermen with bycatch quotas, closed grounds and catch triggers to keep them a top priority.
“I hope government has done its homework and doesn’t jeopardise the stocks,” he said.
“We got a few species that we are looking after and some of them rely on that food chain to survive.
“The more food there is in the ocean the quicker the fish are going to come back.”
John hoped there would be 24-hour observation aboard the boat so that bycatch can be independently recorded.
“I haven’t got a problem with it coming as long as the government has 100 per cent observer coverage, someone on board from the government all the time to watch what it does,” he said.
He believes there should be no financial impact on the rest of the industry.
“I personally think it should be manned by Australian personnel and user pays so there is no financial impact on industry.”
The government says the Margiris’ TAC is 18,000 tonne which the government says is five per cent of stock size.
That catch could be filled with just two shots of its 600 metre net, leaving many to question the vessel’s long term plans.
“As a fishermen and seeing what it’s worth, a boat that size with a crew that size, catching that type of fish, is not going to make money,” John said.
Therefore the TAC would have to increase for the boat to fish full time as illustrated by SeaFish director Gerry Geen who told the Launceston Examiner last week (June 10) that the boat would return to Devenport five or six times a year after spending six to eight weeks fishing.
John doesn’t want to see the Margiris fishing full time in Australian waters.
“There are too many species in the whole fishing industry that rely on that food chain, bluefin, yellow fin, marlin, gemfish, grenadier, and it could destabilise the fishery,” he said.
“If it’s done properly and it works - fine, but if it’s done wrong it could jeopardise a lot of fish stock.”