Conflicting reports over departure of vessel formerly known as Geelong Star

Dutch owners of factory trawler formerly known as Geelong Star and Seafish Tasmania put out conflicting statements on the vessel's departure.

Owners of the factory trawler have issued a press release from Holland confirming the vessel is on its way back to Europe, blaming the departure on not being able to reaching a commercial agreement with Australian partners, Seafish Tasmania.

Seafish Tasmania meanwhile is blaming a mechanical problem the vessel allegedly suffered, adding that it is keen to resume mid-water trawling once quota is allocated.

The managing board of the fishing company Parlevliet & Van der Plas issued the statement from the town of Katwijk in south Holland.

“The management of Parlevliet & Van der Plas BV has decided to stop the fishing activities of the FV Geelong Star in Australia. The reason is that we cannot achieve a financial/commercial agreement with the local partners in Australia,” the press release reads.

“The management regrets that we cannot continue this fishing operation, partly because of the very healthy local pelagic stocks. The fisheries management in Australia is one of the most sustainable in the world.

“We thank the European crew for their tremendous efforts. They made this project possible under difficult conditions, far away from home.

“The vessel is reflagged from Australia to Dutch flag and is on its way to IJmuiden. The old name of the ship is reinstated: KW 172 Dirk Dirk.”

The Small Pelagic Fishing Industry Association has also issued a statement in relation to the vessel formerly known as the Geelong Star.

“The Geelong Star has left Australian waters due to a serious mechanical issue that cannot be rectified locally,” the statement reads.

“Seafish Tasmania Pty Ltd (The largest quota holder in the SPF) reiterates again that they are very happy with the fishing in the SPF and that the fish stocks are extremely healthy and are being managed in a very conservative manner.

“Seafish is reviewing its position but hopes to be back fishing as soon as possible.”

The company could contract any number of mid-water factory trawlers operating around the globe to catch its quota of small pelagic species such as jack and slimy mackerel. It initially tried to start factory trawling with another Dutch vessel, the 136m MV Margiris, renamed the Abel Tasman, but that vessel never left Port Lincoln after growing controversy. 

A check of the MarineTraffic website shows the vessel known as Dirk Diederik is now out of range, with reports from Eden-Monaro MP Mike Kelly that she was recently off South Africa. 

One of the issues with the vessel operating in Australian waters is that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority allowed it to operate without its automatic identification system switched on, so its whereabouts were always unknown to the public.

Chris Young, secretary of the Merimbula Big Game & Lakes Angling Club, was among those welcoming the news of the trawler’s departure.

“After a serious campaign by very many we have joyously received an announcement that the Geelong Star is at this moment passing South Africa on its way back to Europe.  Thank goodness and we trust all our Game Fishing colleagues have a wonderful 2016-2017 season off the Far South Coast,” he said.

“Various reasons are postulated for its departure basically it would seem that its business model for selling the fish to the starving Africans did not work. Perhaps they saw the writing on the wall.”

The Australian Senate Environment and Communications References Committee’s inquiry into “Factory freezer trawlers in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery” meanwhile was held on November 23, the day after Australian Fisheries Management Authority announced the vessel’s departure.

A total of six recommendations were made by the inquiry. Recommendation 1 is: “The committee recommends that the Australian government ban all factory freezer mid-water trawlers from operating in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery.”

Another recommendation was: “The committee recommends that the government expedite its 2016 election commitment to amend the Fisheries Management Act 1991 to specify that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority is required to consider the interests of all users of fisheries including recreational, Indigenous and commercial fishers.”