As new documentary The End of the Line roles out in Australia with its powerful message about the devastating impact that overfishing is having on our global oceans, the Australian fishing industry response has been that Australia has the best managed fisheries in the world and hence we don’t need to worry. But is this true?
Simple statistics suggest otherwise with one in six of our federal fisheries overfished or subject to overfishing and too little information to say if almost half of the remaining fisheries are sustainable. Something you don’t need to tell most recreational fishermen is that many stocks in state waters are also in decline – such as the vulnerable five demersal reef fish and western rock lobster in Western Australia. There are many causes of the rock lobster decline being investigated, but overfishing is considered likely to be a major contributor, if not the sole cause.
Save Our Marine Life has produced a fact sheet entitled ‘ Is The End of the Line relevant to Australia ‘ that further describes the relevance of the film to Australian waters.
Additionally, and not dealt with in this fact sheet is the issue of bycatch. HSI has just launched a web campaign on the death of hundreds of Sea Lions in a fishery off the south of Australia. Just over a month ago The West Australian newspaper reported that dolphin deaths were a regular occurance in the Pilbara Trawl off the Pilbara coast in Western Australia. Many other less iconic but equally important species are also victims of bycatch, many with little science undertaken into the impacts of fishing. Another recent example was when it was revealed that a deep sea bottom trawl fishery off the south of Australia in international waters may be threatening the blobfish with extinction .
Australia’s fishing industry may well be better managed than much of the rest of the world, and that is commendable, but it doesn’t mean it is yet managed well enough to protect our unique marine life and precious fish stocks. And it certainly doesn’t mean we don’t need marine sanctuaries.