Email from Eric Abetz - Liberal Senator for Tasmania

Dear Todd
Thanks for your email concerning the Small Pelagic Fishery in
Commonwealth waters.
As somebody that has followed the issues surrounding matters of
fisheries for quite some time, both in a private capacity and as a
former Fisheries Minister and as a Senator for Tasmania, I can let you
know that I do have some understanding of the issues.

You can also be assured, as I am sure the bureaucracy in Canberra
could assure you, that I did not take direction from the bureaucracy.
In relation to setting up the South-East Marine Park areas, I in fact
listened to the science and was able to achieve good outcomes for
recreational fishers, including making last minute changes for the
benefit of the recreational fishing sector. As a recreational
fisherman myself, I have at least some small appreciation of the
Having said that, I fully understand the strength of feeling of
recreational fishers. Those that have expressed strong views to me
have been greatly relieved in being provided the paper authored by
Professor Colin Buxton et al. It is available on Senator Richard
Colbeck’s website,
The established facts in relation to this fishery are regrettably
not well publicised. The important factors are these –

1.      The total allowable catches for all species has been set
between 10 and less than 7.5 per cent of the spawning biomass.
2.      In relation to localised depletion, this is not a significant
risk as the pelagic species are highly mobile.
3.      Large boats with freezing capacity are able to catch and move
on and remain efficient without the need to come into shore to
off-load their catch given their freezing capacity.
4.      It is recognised that there are separate stock of the targeted
species, east and west of Tasmania, and separate catch limits are set
for each zone which ensures that the quota for each species cannot
simply be taken from one zone.
5.      A significant proportion of the Australian fishing zone around
Tasmania is closed to mid-water trawling under the existing marine
protected areas which I helped establish as Fisheries Minister.
6.      AFMA has advised that there will be 100 per cent coverage of
the vessel’s fishing operations. In relation to bi-catch, spotted
wahoo is a fish subject to quota and the company will need to hold
quota for any such species it takes as bi-catch. The other likely
bi-catch species is not subject to quota. The three species that the
boat will target are part of the food web, which includes a suite of
species that occupy that particular ecological niche. A group of
species such as the lantern fish constitute more than 90 per cent of
the bio-mass of fishes found on the Continental slope off the
east-coast of Tasmania. The bio-mass of lantern fish is estimated to
be in the hundreds of thousands of tonnes. Therefore, if the total
allowable catch allocated in the eastern zone of the fishery across
the three target species were to be taken, it is extremely unlikely
that the pelagic food-web would collapse.

My approach in circumstances such as this is rather than to say no, is
to ask the question - how can we make it work for the benefit of
It seems to me that one way would be to require the vessel to have as
part of its licensing requirements a move-on clause to absolutely
ensure that it does not deplete any localised fishery. I understand
the company is agreeable to such a requirement.
At the end of the day, it is not the size of the boat that matters, it
is the size of the total allowable catch and the harvest strategy.
Australia is world-renowned for its harvest strategy and having helped
establish it, I do have an understanding of its robustness.
You can be absolutely assured that I would not do anything to
prejudice the recreational fishing sector of our State.
The concerns that have been raised, quite rightly, by a number of
people and organisations should have been answered a lot earlier and
it is a matter of regret that those answers were not immediately
provided which as a result gave people cause for concern.
Now that the information has been made available, the recreational
fishing sector can be assured that it will not be prejudiced.
Whilst Fisheries Minister, I was continually confronted by the
alternate views put by the recreational fishers and the commercial
fishers. Both can and should co-exist with the appropriate management
schemes in place. I have every confidence that such schemes are in

Thank you for the opportunity of providing a response.

Yours sincerely
Eric Abetz

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Liberal Senator for Tasmania

Nova Huizing

Electorate Officer

Office of Senator the Hon Eric Abetz

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Liberal Senator for Tasmania

136 Davey Street                  GPO Box 1675

HOBART   TAS    7000           HOBART   TAS   7001

Phone: 0362 243707  

Fax:       0362 243709

Mobile:0418 783 007

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