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More dolphins die in same trawler’s net

Herald Sun

13th November 2004

THE owner of a Tasmanian fishing vessel has agreed to stop trawling off Flinders Island after the deaths of more dolphins in its nets, the second such occurrence in a month.

Three dolphins died when they were caught in the nets off the east coast of Flinders Island yesterday.
On October 10, 14 dolphins died in the nets of the same vessel as it ferried two Tasmanian government scientists researching the biology of fish species.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) investigated the earlier incident, and cleared the boat crew of any wrongdoing.

Spokesman Michael Parolin said the latest dolphin deaths, a rare occurrence in Australian waters, also appeared to be a tragic accident.

"The owner has been absolutely cooperative through all of this and they have agreed that they need to do that," Mr Parolin said.

"They had implemented all the measures that we asked to try and avoid this happening again.

"They had dolphin lookouts to see if there was any activity before they set their nets."

The boat crew was distressed and the owner agreed not to fish the waters off Flinders Island, to which it holds the sole fishing licence, until further protective measures for dolphins were in place.

"They are very concerned," Mr Parolin said.

"Fishermen are the last people that would want to catch these animals.

"(The crew) is very distressed. They don't like seeing these animals caught in the nets any more than any other person does.

"We just need to wait and see what other measures they can possibly take, and that might include adjusting the net design, to avoid this happening again."

But the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) has called for more independent observers on the nation's fishing fleet to ensure all dolphin entrapments are reported.

Spokesman Michelle O'Grady said it was not possible for government authorities to say the entrapments occurred rarely.

"WDCS calls for an end to government denials that have followed both these tragic incidents," Ms O'Grady said.

"Independent, expert observer coverage is woefully limited in Australia's trawl fisheries, as is the public availability of data.

"The lack of reporting (of dolphin deaths) does not automatically mean dolphin bycatch is not occurring.

"It points to what is likely to be a significant problem ... but which until now has largely been hidden from public view."

Ms O'Grady praised the vessel owner's decision to cease fishing until additional safety measures were in place.