Fisherman have win in battle with CGG

Fisherman have win in battle with CGG

Lakes Entrance fisherman will be compensated for their loss of catch attributed to seismic testing in a number of catch zones.

French testing company, CGG, who finished its testing across five zones totalling more than 13,000 square kilometres last Monday, has been forced to use an independent party to redesign and simplify its compensation scheme after it was found, following investigation from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), that different compensations standards were used for different fishers.

The Lakes Post (July 8) reported that more than 100 claims of 170 had not yet been dealt with. Catch rates for 2020, in comparison to 2017/2019 indicators, were halved by May.

CGG has one month to show it has improved its compensation processes or risk fines or jail time for officials.

South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association (SETFIA) executive officer, Simon Boag, who has been vocal in his dismay for CGG’s process, said it has been a gruelling, but ultimately successful process.

“I’ve driven everyone crazy; at times it’s been half of what the industry association has done and it has just been a really long battle to get to this point,” he said.

“This a great development for the Australian economy, the Lakes Entrance community and a precedent for the fishing industry. 

“It is ironic that the ruling came on the day that the vessel steamed away after more than six months of forcing fishermen out of the fishery. 

“We assume that the 80 per cent of fishermen’s unpaid claims will be assessed against the new system that CGG have been ordered to design and start using. We assume, too, that the regulator, NOPSEMA, will hold the French company accountable.

“Fishers are really disillusioned, bitter and twisted that the Australian Government, through NOPSEMA, would decide that they would invite in a big foreign-owned seismic company and tell the local fishing industry, who’s been there for 100 years, to move out of the way.”

Mr Boag said he was worried CGG would escape its compensation obligations.

“We’ve been saying that for seven months, so if that happened, it would be on NOPSEMA as the regulator, because we’ve certainly waved that flag,” he said.

“Let’s hope for the best; we just hope there’s a peaceful, swift, adequate outcome and that they do the right thing.”

Mr Boag said investigation is underway detailing whether or not fish stocks have reduced since testing began.

“A project is underway that is studying catch rates before and after the survey,” he said.

“  The project’s first report after the survey was alarming with one commercial species almost disappearing and others having very reduced catch rates.

“There have been no signs of recovery yet.”