14/12/2004 - 21:00

Marlin loss for long-liners

14/12/2004 - 21:00

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TUNA fishermen have lost a Supreme Court bid to land any striped marlin they catch as part of their long-line fishing activities.

Marlin loss for long-liners

TUNA fishermen have lost a Supreme Court bid to land any striped marlin they catch as part of their long-line fishing activities.

Under their Federal Government-issued permits, fishermen plying the Southern and Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery are allowed to catch marlin for commercial purposes.

However, the Western Aust-ralian Fish Resources Manage-ment Act prohibits them from bringing any marlin they catch onto Western Australian soil.

The marlin are a by-product of long-line tuna fishing.

In the case of Radar Holdings Pty Ltd versus the State of Western Australia, Justice Rene Le Miere ruled that while the State act was inconsistent with Commonwealth law, the State law was “not wholly invalid”.

WA Pelagic Longline Association executive officer Geoffrey Diver said he was seeking the direction of the association’s board on whether to appeal the decision.

“However, we understand the Commonwealth is going to change its legislation to remove this loophole anyway,” he told WA Business News.

Mr Diver said the association’s argument was not about the value of the marlin as a commercial catch.

“Our concern is that the government can snaffle a fishery off us through a backdoor method like this,” he said. “There is also some disquiet about having to put dead animals back into the water.”

Recreational and game fishing groups have lauded the decision because they say it recognises the greater economic benefit of their members catching the marlin, as opposed to the fish being caught by commercial fisherman.

WA Game Fishing Association secretary Ian Stagles said an Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics report into charter and recreational fishing in the tuna and billfish fishery on the east coast of Australia showed recreational fishing was worth more than commercial fishing.

The report finds commercial fishing is worth $3.5 million, charter fishing is worth a negative $2.5 million and recreational fishing is worth $4.9 million.

“But you have to discard the charter fishing result because most charter boats are actually for private use and their owners don’t mind that they run at a loss,” Mr Stagles said.

He said the figures showed recreational fishing had a greater economic benefit than commercial fishing.

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