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Size matters when you're off fishing

By: David Beniuk
12 September, 2012

When it comes to fishing trawlers, it seems size does matter.

At 142 metres long and 9500 tonnes, the super-trawler formerly known as the Margiris is believed to be the world's second-largest.

It would definitely have been the biggest ship ever to fish in Australian waters.
 
But according to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), the reason the Abel Tasman is so big is because of its onboard factory and freezer.
 
"For a factory vessel of around 150m length, only about one-third (around 50m) is fishing boat with the remainder processing and storage," AFMA says on its website.
 
"The net is not at all the biggest net in the current Australian fishing fleet - and in terms of fishing impact, this is the part that matters."
 
AFMA and the boat's operator Seafish Tasmania have consistently said the size of the fishing quota, not the size of the boat, is the issue.
 
"Try and tell that to the public and you haven't got a hope," chairman of the Commonwealth Fisheries Association Martin Exel says.
 
"There's an awful lot of myth around the size of the boat.
 
"As ministers have decided, the boat is too big."
 
Opponents have argued it can deplete single areas because of its size.
 
Not in doubt is the boat's efficiency compared with a fleet of smaller trawlers, as AFMA has also pointed out.
 
"Smaller vessels without at-sea processing and freezer capacity need to constantly return to port which increases fuel costs, reduces fishing time, affects product quality and also reduces their fishing range," the website says.
 
But AFMA was confident it could handle the likes of the Abel Tasman.
 
"There is no reason to single out this boat," it says.
 
"Australia's fisheries management is well equipped to deal with all types of fishing boats and this is no exception.
 
"AFMA makes sure that all fishing operations are sustainable, and as long as the fishing industry comply with these rules (it) is up to the fishing industry to determine what types of boats are most economical."
 
The next-biggest boat to fish in Australian waters was 106m long, AFMA says.
 
That's the same length as the last controversial super-trawler blocked by an Australian government - the Irish-owned Veronica in 2005, at the time the world's second-largest.
Source: AAP

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