Justice for Fishers

August 17, 2020

Imagine if Oil & Gas explorers came onto your farm, telling you to go and farm for a few months somewhere else while they went about their business. And then, on return, you found paddocks dug up and half your cows and sheep had broken legs or were otherwise unwell; albeit not dead (yet). And finally, imagine that, when seeking some compensation for all this you were told that, in the great scheme of things this was not ‘material’ damage (beef and lamb is still available in the supermarket isn’t it?) and that, effectively, Mother Nature and Father Time would fix your farm up. And in any case, you had the opportunity to farm somewhere else in the meantime so had every opportunity to earn an income doing that. When it comes to Oil & Gas exploration in the ocean, welcome to the world of professional fishers; the farmers of the sea.

The sad truth of the matter is that while exploration on the land does require a rehabilitation bond; there is no such requirement in the ocean. And when it comes to compensation, the fishing industry has to fight its case (every time) and ‘prove’ the negative impact (mostly of seismic testing) on each and every individual fisher for every dollar of compensation they might get. And there are no guarantees that they will get anything as there is no obligation on explorers to pay it.

For many years now, professional fishers must (quite rightly) comply with the requirements of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) which requires ‘precaution’ in oceanic activities (in our case fishing) in order to ensure that what we do does not adversely impact the environment or threaten the sustainability of the fish we harvest. Unfortunately, the Oil & Gas Industry, while undertaking their activities in our shared marine environment, do not share this same obligation. They (not the Regulator) are effectively able to declare how ‘precautious’ they are prepared to be.

Surely, all operators in our shared marine environment should be treated equally.

2008 ocean justice for fishers1

Markus Nolle, Apollo Bay Fisherman’s Co-Op, for OCEAN


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