PROSPECTS of having a super trawler catching thousands of tonnes of bait fish off south-west Victoria have prompted two Warrnambool City councillors to call for protests to the federal government.
Councillors John Harris and Peter Hulin said they were alarmed by concerns aired at a public meeting of recreational anglers last week.
Dutch-owned FV Margiris is heading towards Australia for a proposed joint venture with Seafish Tasmania to catch bait fish for packaging and sale as cheap food on international markets.
The floating factory and freezer can process more than 240 tonnes of fish a day.
Fishing industry groups in Tasmania and the mainland fear it will decimate their local stocks and are lobbying governments to refuse an operating licence. The federal government has indicated the trawler will be subject to strict monitoring conditions.
“Fishermen are deeply concerned and we should be taking that seriously and lobby the government,” Cr Hulin told Monday night’s council meeting.
“We need to ask the government to ban these trawlers raping our oceans.”
Cr Harris said there was potential for the trawler to take most of the food supply for fish targeted by recreational anglers.
“It is important for council to lobby on the trawler,” he said. “Victoria has a $1.2 billion a year fishing industry and in the south-west region it’s worth $200 million.”
He said he would ask city chief executive Bruce Anson to send letters to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and relevant senior ministers pointing out the council’s concerns on behalf of local fishermen.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society said yesterday small fish scooped up by the trawler were a vital food source for endangered southern bluefin tuna, rare marine mammals, seabirds and other big fish that were important ecologically, as well as to recreational and other commercial fishers.
Last week’s public meeting in Warrnambool heard concerns that southern bluefin tuna stocks off the south-west could be affected. The annual tuna run is a major drawcard for anglers.