Report gives a tick to health of key Far Northern fisheries
AUSTRALIA'S first national snapshot of fish stocks has revealed there are, in fact, plenty of fish in the sea.
The Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks report shows nearly two-thirds of Australia's fish stocks are sustainable, while only two blue fin tuna and school shark are classed as over-fished.
The report examined 49 of Australia's most popular wild-caught seafood species divided into 150 different stocks around the country, and gave them green, yellow and red ratings.
Of those, 98 were considered green or sustainable.
In good news for north Queensland families ahead of Christmas, popular seafood items such as barramundi, mud crab and prawns were also found to be sustainably fished.
The news came as no surprise to Far Northern operators who say Australia has established itself as a world leader in sustainable fishing practices.
Tropic Ocean Prawns general manager Michael O'Brien said fishers employed world-class practices and noted the close relationship between industry and the government as being key to its success.
"The industry and government work together and that's the main reason why our fisheries are so strong and well-recognised,'' he said.
Austral Fisheries' Northern Prawn Fishery this year caught almost 1.7 million kg of prawns in Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australian waters.
General manager Andy Prendergast said Australian fishers only produced 0.02 per cent of the world's fish, despite operating in the third-biggest exclusive economic zone - 8.8 million sq km.
"(The industry) spends millions of dollars on independent science to ensure we are sustainable,'' Mr Prendergast said.
"We take an extremely precautionary approach to all fisheries.
"In the last 30 years we've taken great steps to control the exploitation and ensure sustainability.''
But Australian Marine Conservation Society spokeswoman Tooni Mahto said the use of the word "sustainable'' was misleading.
She said the impact fishing has on dugongs, turtles and sharks through bycatch needed to be considered.
"The Government is misusing the word sustainable,'' she said.
Dr Patrick Hone, executive director of the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, said the report confirmed Australia's fishery stocks were well managed.
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Plenty of fish in the sea: Tropic Ocean Prawns general manager Michael O'Brien. Picture: MARC McCORMACK