February 1st, 2016 (Lucy Shannon). The factory trawler, Geelong Star, has been given the all-clear to fish again, a few days after it was banned for causing seven albatross deaths.
The birds were killed when they struck a net sonde cable which connects a sonar device to the 95-metre trawler during fishing operations.
Five of the albatross were killed in one trawl.
As a result the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) temporarily banned the ship until it came up with new mitigation measures to “reduce the risk of seabird interactions”.
The AFMA has released a statement which said advice had been sought from seabird experts and as a result the authority had “mandated additional mitigation measures”.
The authority said it had put in place conditions related to the use of the net sonde cable.
“Based on advice from seabird experts on world’s best practice mitigation for the net sonde cable, the amount of wire that is in the air has now been significantly reduced,” the organisation said (Ed Sibylline : “reduced” is not “stopped” !).
“The remaining length of wire that is in the air must have highly visible ‘tori lines’ (also known as streamer lines) either side of the cable.”
Those lines make birds more aware of the net sonde cable and reduce the risk of them striking it.
The Geelong Star will also have to stop fishing immediately if a single seabird is killed by the net sonde cable until a review into the death is conducted.
The Greens have called for the trawler’s permanent ban from Australian waters, arguing mitigation processes were not working.
A spokesman for the ship’s operator SeaFish Tasmania said the number of deaths “compares favourably” with other trawl fisheries.
Acting chief of AFMA Dr Nick Rayns said “all fishing poses risks that can sometimes lead to unintentional harm to protected species”.