‘Longlining will damage fisheries’

NOT HAPPY: Ceduna mayor Allan Suter said the practice of longlining fishing should not be allowed as it has a devastating impact on local professional and recreational fishers. Picture: Luca Cetta
NOT HAPPY: Ceduna mayor Allan Suter said the practice of longlining fishing should not be allowed as it has a devastating impact on local professional and recreational fishers. Picture: Luca Cetta

Ceduna mayor Allan Suter is concerned a move to introduce auto longlining fishing in West Coast waters will have on local fish stocks.

Two boats under Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) control are set set to soon start fishing local waters using the auto longlining method, which involves a machine baiting the hooks and setting them, with the capacity for “thousands” of hooks in the water, according to the AFMA website.

“It is such a horrible form is fishing as with so many hooks – up to 10,000 – by the time they finish setting and go back to retrieve, most of what they catch is deceased and any fish they don’t have the capacity to take gets discarded,” Mr Suter said.

“Two practices are abhorrent, one is the fish suffocate on the line and the other is the wastage of the system and it shouldn’t be permitted under any circumstances.”

Mr Suter said two boats were set to come to the region, which AFMA would not confirm, however the authority said the practice of longlining had been in place for decades.

“Commonwealth fishers have been permitted to use longlines (amongst other fishing methods including gillnets) in the waters off South Australia for over 30 years,” a spokesperson said.

“These operators, although operating under Commonwealth fishing concessions, have almost always been South Australian residents.

“Longlining is also authorised and managed by the South Australian government in coastal waters.”

Professional fishers in South Australia can use longlining but with only up to 400 hooks attached.

West Coast Recreational Fishing Committee secretary Perry Will is not pleased about auto longlining in local waters.

“I’m not happy with it, we have had rules forced upon us and this would be the undoing of them all.”

President of the West Coast Professional Fishermen’s Association Jeff Schmucker said it approved the use of auto longlining in Commonwealth restricted areas.

“The West Coast Professional Fishermen’s Association have been aware of the move to auto lonlining for the South East Shark Fishery for approximately two years and three members of the Association are involved in the shark fishery too,” he said.

“The Commonwealth Shark fishery on the West Coast has been producing up to 400 tonnes of shark annually and in the last two years has been reduced to literally zero due to the mitigation of dolphin and sea lion interaction.

“West Coast fishers are users of the longlining method and we do not have concerns about cruelty and discard issues that the Commonwealth fishery is supposed to have.”

Mr Schmucker added that the Association “would like to see all marine scale licence holders on the West Coast going through appropriate channels of the West Coast Professional Fishermen’s Association.

“The Association is stronger than ever in the past,” he said.

Mr Suter said he was against AFMA-controlled fishers in the area with “no restrictions on numbers”, while at the same time seeing the state government restrict what recreational and licenced fishermen could take.

“Both the state and federal governments should be thoroughly ashamed for the way they have treated licenced and recreational fishers,” he said.

However, AFMA said it was managed through a Total Allowable Catch and quota system, restricting the catch of target species to sustainable levels, “irrespective of the fishing method or number or size of boats that fish”.

“AFMA also enforces spatial closures to protect nursery areas, bycatch limits for protected species such as dolphins and Australian sea lions and trip limits for stocks that are managed by the South Australian government [and] AFMA also maintains very high levels of monitoring of vessels in South Australia through its Electronic Monitoring Program,” the AFMA spokesperson said.

“Operators in these fisheries support the local seafood industry importance in regional areas such as Ceduna.

“This includes direct employment on fishing boats as well as throughout other parts of the supply chain, for example tourists choosing sustainable fish and chips for dinner.”

Mr Suter said after an auto liner had gone through it would be difficult for recreational fishers or professionals to catch shark or snapper.

“Auto liners will rip the guts out of local fisheries and doing that after the state government more or less crippled state fishers with the law it has imposed is cruel,” he said.

“This will have a devastating effect on local recreational tourism and state fishers and is disgraceful.

“AFMA don’t consult and discuss, they just impose rules.”

PIRSA was also contacted for comment.