The journal of agricultural and environmental ethics has published a paper by Sena De Silva and Giovanni Turchini titled Towards Understanding the Impacts of the Pet Food Industry on World Fish and Seafood Supplies. The article explains that Australian cats eat 33,500 tonnes of seafood per annum. This seafood is imported and produced in Australia.
To put this in context the southern east trawl fishery lands 18,000 tonnes per year meaning that two south east trawl fisheries would be required to feed all Australian cats.
The report explains that “Pet ownership is increasing globally. It has been reported that the increase of disposable income, together with increasing urbanization and associated attitude shifts, are responsible for the dramatic increase in pet ownership, such as for example in China and in developing countries in general”. It adds that, “The market for pet food and pet care products has been reported to be growing at an annual average rate of 4% in value terms and reached US$49 billion in 2003, with pet food representing about 80% of the global pet industry market”. It concludes that, “It has been hypothesized that pet owners are treating their companions progressively more as a family member, and consequently, expenditure on pet food is growing.”
Fortunately Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries are managed under sustainable quotas that are recommended by fisheries scientists and set by an independent Commission. Demand for seafood products is not considered when setting quotas.
The South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA) is pleased to announce a new project focussed on reducing seal interactions by shortening trawl fishing nets. SETFIA has established a project steering committee with representatives from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), SETFIA, Fishwell Consulting and the Phillip Island Nature Parks.
The project is supported by AFMA through funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country initiative and ExxonMobil Australia. Caring For Our Country funds environmental projects aimed at protecting Australia’s natural environment and sustainability. ExxonMobil Australia supports marine conservation projects through its community contributions program and it has been a long term supporter of seal tracking and education projects by Phillip Island Nature Parks (www.sealeducation.org.au).
The South East Trawl Fishery is the main supplier of fresh fish into the Melbourne and Sydney fish markets. Its fishermen are proud of their current levels of sustainability. More than 30 species are managed under sustainable catch limits recommended by scientists. The fishery has ecological risk assessments in place which consider the potential impacts of fishingon the environment. More than 85% of the fishery is closed including 14 existing marine parks that cover an area the size of the Victorian land mass.
Seal populations are increasing but Fur Seals sometimes opportunistically feed on fish inside of trawl nets, and are occasionally caught in the net. Sometimes the seals return to the water unharmed, however some unfortunately drown. Populations of Australian Fur Seals are rapidly increasing in numbers, which may result in an increase in these interactions with the fishery. Reducing the chance of these interactions is a logical step for the fishery which is actively working to improve its sustainability.
Large trawl vessels are able to use grids that exclude seals from trawls, however they are impractical and unsafe on small vessels that are typical in the South East Trawl Fishery. In a rush to return to sea last year, a South East Trawl vessel did not have time to sew extensions into their trawl as they normally would. A normal trawl is pictured above. The extensions make the trawl longer and stops fast swimming fish escaping from the trawl. The crew found that having a shorter net (“modified trawl” in diagram above) did not affect catches of the slow swimming species that they were catching, but instead over time noticed a large decrease in interactions with seals.
These fishermen approached SETFIA to formally trial the net in reducing seal interactions. SETFIA then engaged Fishwell Consulting to design a scientifically valid method to test the effectiveness of using shorter trawls. Key issues are whether shorter net trawls reduce seal interactions without reducing commercial fish catch. The project will collect data from a normal trawl and a shortened trawl over a year. Results will be reported in early 2014.
Women in the seafood industry
The objectives of WINSC are:
- Recognize and enhance the skills of women in the seafood industry
- Develop effective partnerships with government agencies and other industry stakeholders.
- Take a professional approach to all activities and relationships with other stakeholders.
- Create a supportive environment to ensure women of the fishing industry reach their potential.
- Actively encourage the involvement of women in the seafood industry.
- Provide community education on all aspects of the seafood industry.
WINSC is the only national organization in Australia representing and supporting women in the Australian and New Zealand seafood industry. It’s a unique network of those involved directly and indirectly in the professional fishing industry including, aquaculture, research, processing ,policy, resource management, government and non government sectors. WINSC is dedicated to expanding it’s membership and membership is not restricted to women. Those interested can apply online at www.winsc.org.au.