The controversial factory freezer trawler Geelong Star has killed four dolphins and two seals on its first fishing trip in Australian waters.
The deaths in the ship’s trawl net off south-eastern Australia were disclosed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) on Tuesday night.
They came despite the installation of a marine mammal escape device in the big net of the Dutch-owned ship, which is opposed by a coalition of environmentalists and recreational fishers.
Geelong Star is trawling for 16,500 tonnes of redbait and jack mackerel using a 80 metre wide, and 35 metre high net, in the same offshore small pelagic fishery that was to have been fished by the banned supertrawler Margiris.
The “outrageous” toll of dolphins and seals spurred the Stop the Trawler Alliance to call for an immediate halt to fishing, and a return to port by the Geelong Star.
“This is extraordinary news,” said the alliance’s Rebecca Hubbard.
“AFMA has repeatedly given assurances that this huge factory trawler is nothing new and does not pose an unacceptable threat to our marine life,” Ms Hubbard said.
“I don’t think the public will believe that now,” she said.
“We expect the vessel to be docked immediately, and for Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Environment Minister Greg Hunt to stop it fishing further.”