WWF defends stance on trawling

Controversial ... the super trawler, the Abel Tasman, docked at Port Lincoln in South Australia.
Controversial ... the super trawler, the Abel Tasman, docked at Port Lincoln in South Australia.

The global conservation organisation WWF has had to confirm its backing for trawling after an initial claim it wanted Australia to ban the fishing method.

The wildlife organisation's international director, Yolanda Kakabadse, was this week reported to have called on the federal government to ban trawling, after its controversial prohibition of a Dutch super trawler.

Ms Kakabadse's call drew alarm from Australian fishers, some of whom operate trawlers in sustainable seafood fisheries backed by the WWF.

A big supplier to the Melbourne and Sydney fish markets, the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association, said the statement had damaged the trust building between fishers and WWF.

The chief executive of the association, Simon Boag, said it was shocked to hear WWF's proposal, which was very different to its usual position.

"WWF have a history of working with trawl fisheries such as the Northern Prawn Fishery and the Spencer Gulf Prawn Fishery and have financed third-party eco-certification for these fisheries," Mr Boag said.

The Commonwealth Fisheries Association, which represents fishers beyond state waters, also said it was initially shocked by Ms Kakabadse's comment.

On Tuesday she has been in high-level meetings in Canberra and unavailable for comment, a WWF spokesman said.

The organisation's national marine manager, Michael Harte, said that while Ms Kakabadse had meant to refer to unsustainable super trawling, "the language and context has turned into a ban on trawling".

"She was referring to damaging practices in some types of trawling," Dr Harte said. "WWF promotes sustainable practices irrespective of gear type, whether it's trawling, gill netting or hook and line fisheries."

This story WWF defends stance on trawling first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.