Catch rates plummet

Catch rates plummet

Seismic testing is believed to be the cause of a significant drop in the Lakes Entrance fishing fleet catch rates.

The marine seismic survey, undertaken by French company, CGG, is covering more than 13,000 square kilometres over five zones and is just over halfway through its testing.

While the fishing fleet has the ability to make claims with CGG for the loss of income relating to the drop in catch rate, South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA) executive officer, Simon Boag, said more than 100 claims have not yet been dealt with.

“Yesterday’s metric from CGG shows that only 35 of 170 claims have resolved after five months,” Mr Boag said last Friday.

“At end May only 45 tonnes of the missing 237 tonnes has been compensated through payments to vessels.”

Mr Boag said in comparison to catch data from 2017 through 2019, catch rates have dropped by more than half.

“The situation is now beyond dire and total current landings are now about half of normal,” he said.

“We have been saved by high fish prices, a big Federal Government levy waiver as a stimulus, good catch rates everywhere else and a really low fuel price. “However, some vessels in Lakes Entrance have now just tied up.”

SETFIA has also put in a complaint to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) in regards to vessels being able to claim compensation. Under CGG’s compensation scheme, to qualify for compensation vessels must: 1) have a history of fishing the surveyed area, and 2) vessels that have been displaced by the survey and cannot fish in that area, went back to the area after it was surveyed.

“That’s oxymoronic,” Mr Boag said.

CGG says the main purpose of the seismic exploration is to render the most accurate possible graphic representation of specific portions of the Earth’s subsurface geologic structure.
Acquisition of seismic data involves the transmission of controlled acoustic energy into the Earth, and recording the energy that is reflected back from geologic boundaries in the subsurface.

The images produced allow the evaluation of the area for its potential to yield natural resources. Seismic surveys are the main tool used in oil and gas exploration and are used throughout the world.

IMAGE: This column chart shows monthly catch rates in the Lakes Entrance fishing coop: Average of 2017-19 (yellow) against 2020 (red). The bar chart is a summary of the column chart. (PS)