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Steam trawling on the south-east continental shelf of Australia: an environmental history of fishing, management and science in NSW, 1865- 1961

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Jacobsen, ALL (2010) Steam trawling on the south-east continental shelf of Australia: an environmental history of fishing, management and science in NSW, 1865- 1961. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

As many of the world's fish stocks are fully or over-exploited there is an urgent need for
governments to provide robust fisheries management. However, governments are often slow
to implement necessary changes to fisheries practices.
The will to govern is an essential factor in successful marine resource management. Studies
of historical documents from State and Commonwealth fisheries authorities involved in the
steam trawl fishery on the south-east continental shelf of Australia illustrate different
expressions of intentional management and how a more ecological responsible view has
emerged.
Motivated by Sydney's insufficient supplies of fish, the objective of early fisheries
management in the state of New South Wales (NSW) was to improve the industry. Driven by
state developmentalism, efforts were focused on increasing the productivity of already
existing coastal fisheries through fisheries legislation, marine hatching and marketing.
As this failed, an alternative development vision emerged of exploiting the untouched
resources on the continental shelf, which at the time were believed to be inexhaustible.
During 1915 to 1923 the NSW Government pioneered steam trawling on the shelf through
the State Trawling Industry with the aim of providing the public with an affordable supply of
fish. Although an economic failure, the State Trawling Industry paved the way for a private
steam trawling industry. The industry expanded throughout the 1920s until falling catch rates
of tiger flathead forced the industry to scale down and reorganise.
A Commonwealth fisheries research organisation was established in 1937 to aid industry
growth, but shortly afterwards marine scientists began challenging the development driven
fishery policy. Instead they advocated sustainable resource management based upon
scientific recommendations.
The Second World War provided financial relief for the industry, as the Royal Australian
Navy leased the ageing trawler fleet for minesweeping. After the war a complex system of
overlapping State and Commonwealth authority evolved. Different management objectives
and lack of legislative framework blocked conservation efforts.Fazed by evidence of depletion of stocks in the post-war period and unable to pass legislation
for fishing in extra-territorial waters, the NSW Fisheries Branch used market reform to
regulate the industry. Increased costs and changes in species composition of catches caused
by overfishing forced the steam trawling companies to gradually close down between 1954
and 1961.
The history of the management of the steam trawling fishery shows the considerable
difficulties associated with implementing responsible resource management in a multigovernmental
system and the power of bureaucracy in policy decisions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2012 08:02
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:53
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