Frequently Asked Questions

What happened to the Abel Tasman?

CLICK HERE to download the timeline which clearly shows the events surrounding the Abel Tasman.

Timeline screenshot

How reliable is the science supporting quota setting?

Egg surveys are used to estimate the size of the spawning stocks. This fish stock assessment method is widely used and recognised as being an effective approach for the assessment of small pelagic species. The egg surveys in this fishery have been carried out by independent scientists from the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute and from the South Australian Research and Development Institute.

How are the quotas set?

The Small Pelagic Fishery Harvest Strategy is a strict set of rules that specifies what data are required and how they are used. The annual Total Allowable Catches are set as a % of the size of the spawning biomass. The maximum harvest rate is 20% if two egg surveys are carried out on the same stock within a 3 year period.

How can egg survey data be used if it is “out of date”?

As egg survey data get older, they are used in a more precautionary way in the Total Allowable Catch setting process. That is, the size of the Total Allowable Catch is reduced each year from a maximum of 20% to a base level of 7.5% of the estimated spawning stock until a new egg survey is carried out. Scientists consider this to be a highly conservative approach.

What about local depletion?

Dr. Keith Sainsbury, IMAS, says

“Ecological consequences from large to medium space‐scale depletion is not likely because of the diverse forage base in this ecosystem, the mobility of both the predators and prey in this ecosystem, the spatial zoning of catches, and the experience world‐wide with harvest rates as low as those being applied here. However the possibility of some effect at some very local scale cannot be totally excluded and requires monitoring”.

What impact will it have on seals, dolphins and seabirds??

Emeritus Professor Kearney, University of Canberra, says

“It will not do any detectable harm to those populations. The seal populations and the dolphin, most of the dolphin populations and seal populations in Australia are actually increasing significantly. And there’s plenty of seals there and there’s plenty of food there for them. And humans are predators also and we need to eat fishes. As I said, we import 70 to 75% of the fish that we eat and we need more. We manage it extremely sustainably and based on the recent track record of Australian fisheries you can be very confident that this fishery will be sustainably managed”.

How much fish will the vessel catch?

The catch is limited by the amount of quota held. Seafish Tasmania has a quota of nearly 17,800 tonnes in 2012‐13, out of a total quota in the fishery of 36,300 tonnes.

How are the fish processed

The fish are graded by size and species and then quickly frozen whole in 20kg blocks to produce a high quality product. There is no further processing and, after packaging in cardboard cartons, the frozen fish are kept in refrigerated cold storage.

Who will monitor the vessel’s operations?

Observers from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority will be onboard the vessel to monitor catches of quota species, by‐catches and interactions with marine mammals and seabirds.

What about interactions with seals and dolphins?

An excluder device is fitted to the net to allow marine mammals to exit from the trawl net through an escape hatch. The design of the excluder device is based on the results of a one year study by the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute using underwater video cameras to study animal behaviours inside the mid-water trawl net of Seafish Tasmania’s previous mid-water trawler.

Where will the fish be caught?

The fishery extends from Queensland to Western Australia and around Tasmania. It is divided into two zones – east and west of Tasmania. Seafish Tasmania has quota in both zones so fishing will be spread throughout the fishery.

Where will the fish be sold?

Most of the catch will be exported to West Africa for human consumption. It is expected that some of the catch will be sold to Asian markets. None of the catch will be used to produce fishmeal

What by-catches are expected?

Previous mid‐water trawling operations by Seafish Tasmania had a by‐catch level of less than 1% of total catch, verified by independent observers. The main by‐catch species were barracouta and spotted warehou, a species in the South East Fishery for which quota is required.

Why use a large freezer trawler?

Freezing the fish at sea soon after capture enables a high quality product fit for human consumption to be produced. By using a large freezer trawler catches can be taken throughout the fishery and economies of scale can be achieved so that an economically viable operation can be achieved despite the low unit value of the fish in international markets.